He began the game with a 92-m.p.h. strike. And it just got better from there.

Justin Verlander had the night of his professional life Thursday at the Oakland Coliseum. In a dominant display of power and precision, the Tigers' ace finally showed what is possible when he marries his talent with the high-stakes pressure of playoff baseball.

His team's season was on the line when Verlander took the mound just after 6:30 p.m. local time. His legacy was in question, too.

Sure, everybody knew he was capable of multiple Cy Young awards and could throw a no-hitter in the regular season and could win 25 games. And everybody knew he could pump late-inning, triple-digit gas when most mortal pitchers lose velocity, or command four above-average pitches that included a curve ball that plummets through the strike zone.

But no one was certain he could summon this outlandish talent in a winner-take-all playoff game on the road. They know now.

All Verlander did Thursday night was save the Tigers season by throwing a complete-game, four-hit shutout as Detroit beat Oakland, 6-0.

The ace was in control from the start.

Someone asked him to rank his performance.