O.CO COLISEUM — After an epic pitcher’s duel, the Oakland A’s continued their walk-off ways to take Game Two of the ALDS against the Detroit Tigers 1-0.
Justin Verlander and Sonny Gray were dealing right out nearly all game, but Stephen Vogt’s single in the bottom of the ninth clinched the win for Oakland.
One night after striking out an Athletics postseason record 16 times, Oakland batters attempted a similar feat on Saturday night. A’s hitters struck out 13 times and mustered just eight hits.
Like Scherzer on Friday, Verlander dominated the A’s, throwing 117 pitches over seven shutout innings. Verlander matched his postseason career-high with 11 strikeouts and walked only one.
He’s now thrown 24 scoreless innings against Oakland in the postseason dating back to the 2012 ALDS.
But despite another great performance from the 2011 AL Cy Young and MVP, the night was about Gray.
The 23-year-old rookie was brilliant in his playoff debut, matching the veteran Verlander pitch-for-pitch, and even doing him one better. Gray tossed eight shutout innings on 111 pitches and didn’t let nerves get to him:
“Coming out early, I wasn’t as nervous, wasn’t as amped up as I thought I would be. And it was awesome, because I was able to locate my pitches without being way too shaky.”
Gray located his pitches brilliantly, striking out nine and walking only two. He is just the sixth rookie to start a postseason game for Oakland. Jim Leyland credits Gray for stifling the powerful Tigers offense:
“He was everything as advertised. Good, live fastball, 94, 95, 93, 96, with an electric curveball. He was terrific.”
But the A’s squandered chances, leaving men on in the fourth, fifth, seventh, and eighth innings, and they couldn’t get Gray the win.
It then became a battle of the bullpens. Drew Smyly and Al Albuquerque pitched a scoreless eighth inning for Detroit, and Grant Balfour threw 11 pitches in a 1-2-3 top of the ninth.
This all set the stage for more bottom-of-the-ninth heroics at O.Co Coliseum.
Yoenis Cespedes led off the inning with a single to left, and Seth Smith followed it up with a single past Prince Fielder. Albuquerque walked Josh Reddick to load the bases, bringing up Stephen Vogt.
Vogt was 0-for-3 in the game with three strikeouts before his final at-bat, but he rocketed a single into left field, bringing home Cespedes and sending the sellout crowd of 48,292 into a frenzy.
For Vogt, who caught Gray in Triple-A, it’s a moment that he’ll remember forever:
“You come up bases loaded, nobody out, and that’s what you dream of. Look for something out over the plate, stay in the middle of the field. I was just fortunate to come through.”
With the series now tied at 1-1, the teams head to Detroit. Game Three with pit Jarrod Parker against Anibal Sanchez. First pitch will be at 10:07 a.m. on Monday.
The A’s recorded their first postseason walk-off win since Coco Crisp’s walk-off single in Game four of the 2012 ALDS against Detroit, and it’s the eighth postseason walk-off win in franchise history. … Gray became the second pitcher in A’s postseason history with at least eight scoreless innings pitched, nine strikeouts, and four or fewer hits (Chief Bender, October 10, 1905). … Cespedes extended his ALDS hitting streak to seven games, which is the longest ALDS hitting streak in Oakland history. … Callaspo recorded his first career postseason hit.