Justin Verlander was filthy and Sonny Gray surprised everyone with his poise and confidence, but ultimately Stephen Vogt and his inside-out, single through a drawn-in infield stole the show on Saturday night.
Vogt’s single with the bases loaded scored Yoenis Cespedes with the game’s only run in the A’s 1-0 win that evened the ALDS series with Game 3 scheduled for Detroit on Monday.
You come up bases loaded, nobody out, and that’s what you dream of,” Vogt said. “Look for something over the plate, stay in the middle of the field, just fortunate to come through.”
Prior to his game-winning moment, Vogt looked like a lot of other frustrated hitters on Saturday. Verlander and Gray not only dominated the proceedings to that point, they embarrassed hitters along the way, combining to strike out 20, marking the first time in Major League post-season history that both starting pitchers struck out at least nine batters and didn’t allow a run.
Verlander and Gray both scattered four singles over the length of their outings, with the Detroit starter going seven while striking out 11. Gray went eight innings and struck out nine.
Verlander’s big outing wasn’t a surprise, but when he produced one of the best starts of his career, the fact that Gray was able to match him nearly pitch-for-pitch was. While Verlander backed off the heat just a little and had A’s hitters guessing what pitch was coming next, Gray stuck to his fastball-curveball combo to perfection, blowing up the strike zone and using his devastating curve as his out pitch.
Remember, Verlander’s a 30-year old veteran with six All-Star appearances while Gray’s made just 10 starts at the Major League level.
“You know, Sonny did one heck of a job,” Verlander said. “He was able to use his angst and energy for a positive and a lot of young guys it works against them. That’s why veterans usually seem to do better in post-season pressure. He handled himself like a veteran and it was impressive.”
Both starters allowed a pair of baserunners to reach in the fifth inning, but they turned up the pressure at that point instead of letting the pressure cook them. With two on and one out, Gray struck out Austin Jackson and Vogt threw out Jose Iglesias attempting to steal second base. Verlander allowed the first two runners to reach and then retired Josh Reddick and struck out Vogt and Eric Sogard.
In the A’s ninth, Cespedes and Seth Smith singled off Al Alburquerque and Reddick was intentionally walked to load the bases. Detroit manager Jim Leyland opted for Rick Porcello—normally a starter—at that point and he allowed Vogt’s game-winning hit on a 1-1 pitch.
The A’s avoided falling behind 2-0 in the series and will need to win just one of the two games in Detroit to force a series-deciding Game 5 back in Oakland on Thursday.
Miguel Cabrera went 1 for 4 with a strikeout and Detroit leadoff man Jackson struck out in all four of his plate appearances. The Tigers’ Don Jackson joined Cespedes and Seth Smith as the only hitters in the game to produce two hits.
On Monday, Jarrod Parker will face the Tigers’ Anibal Sanchez at 1:07 EST in Detroit.