OAKLAND, Calif. – A pair of Oakland rookies, one heralded and the other a relative unknown, provided everything the Athletics needed to tie their A.L. division series with Detroit at one game apiece.
Stephen Vogt hit a bases-loaded single in the ninth inning after rookie Sonny Gray matched zeros with Justin Verlander in a sensational playoff debut, lifting Oakland over the Tigers 1-0 on Saturday night.
Yoenis Cespedes and Seth Smith hit back-to-back singles against loser Al Alburquerque to start the winning rally, then Josh Reddick was intentionally walked before Rick Porcello entered to face Vogt. He lined a clean single past drawn-in shortstop Jose Iglesias and into left-center.
“It’s just really nice to come out in front of these home fans in a must-win game and come through,” Gray said. “It was awesome.”
The A.L. West champion A’s had eight walk-off wins during the regular season, then did it again at the perfect time on baseball’s October stage.
It was Vogt’s first career game-winning hit – and it came after he lost a 10-pitch battle with Verlander in the seventh for his third strikeout of the night.
Grant Balfour pitched a 1-2-3 ninth for the win.
Game 3 is Monday afternoon in Detroit. Right-hander Jarrod Parker, who pitched Game 1 at Comerica Park last year and lost to Verlander, goes for the A’s against 14-game winner Anibal Sanchez.
Gray hung tough with a masterful Verlander in a thrilling pitchers’ duel between the rookie making his 11th career start and the 2011 A.L. MVP and Cy Young Award winner. Each calmly worked out of tough jams, wore their emotions on their sleeves – with fist pumps and cheers – and set down the heart of the other’s order.
Gray struck out nine in eight dazzling innings, allowing four hits. Verlander, who beat the A’s twice in the ALDS last fall, struck out 11 to give him 33 Ks in his past three postseason outings against Oakland.