"We still felt like we were going to win. We didn't care who was pitching," Oakland manager Bob Melvin said. "He went out there and pitched probably one of the better games of his career at a big time. There's not much, at times, you can do about that when a guy like that with that much ability goes out and pitches as well as he did."
On Friday, the remnants of Detroit's cigar and bubbly party from the previous night were still being cleaned up from the visiting clubhouse in Oakland. But the vanquished A's gave the Tigers high marks.
"Jim Leyland was a class act," Melvin said. "He came over to our dugout before celebrating with his team."
Leyland has managed the Tigers to the playoffs for the third time — and each time Detroit has faced the Yankees. The Tigers beat New York in the division series en route to the 2006 AL pennant, and again last year.
One potential concern for Detroit is the bullpen. Joaquin Benoit has struggled to keep the ball in the park, and closer Jose Valverde lost Game 4 of the Oakland series, putting the Tigers on the brink of elimination.
Still, Detroit's impressive rotation of Verlander, Fister, Anibal Sanchez and Max Scherzer makes the Tigers a threat against anyone. Verlander is slated to pitch Games 3 and 7 of the ALCS.
"This is the best stuff I've seen," Dombrowski said. "To come in and do what he did, Game 5, everything on the line, to do what he did — that's why in my eyes he's the best pitcher in baseball."