Wednesday, February 21, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Athletics 1, Tigers 0

OAKLAND, Calif. — A pair of Oakland rookies, one heralded and the other a relative unknown, provided everything the Athletics needed to tie their AL Division Series with Detroit at one game apiece.

Stephen Vogt hit an RBI 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.

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 single past drawn-in shortstop Jose Iglesias to win it.

The AL West champion A's had eight walkoff wins during the regular season, then did it again at the perfect time on baseball's October stage. This was Vogt's first career winning hit. It came after he lost a 10-pitch at-bat against Verlander in the seventh for his third strikeout of the night.

Former Rays reliever 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.

Alburquerque struck out two batters in the eighth. He is still remembered for kissing the ball while recording an out in the ninth inning of a Game 2 win last October.

The A's got him this time.

Gray hung tough with a masterful Verlander in a pitchers' duel between the rookie making his 11th career start and the 2011 AL MVP and Cy Young Award winner. Each calmly worked out of tough jams and set down the heart of the other's batting order.

Gray struck out nine in eight scoreless innings, allowing four hits. Verlander, who beat the A's in Games 1 and 5 of last fall's ALDS, struck out 11 more batters to give him 33 in his past three postseason outings against Oakland.

At the start of Verlander's remarkable 2011 season, Gray was finishing up at Vanderbilt before becoming the 18th overall draft pick.

Brandon Moss drew a leadoff walk in the seventh and Reddick singled two outs later with Moss beating a throw to third and Reddick advancing. That gave the A's their best scoring position of the night against Verlander, with two Tigers relievers warming.

Vogt fouled off five straight pitches, laid off a ball and fouled another before ball two. He fouled one more then struck out on a high 98-mph fastball, and Verlander marched off the mound pumping both fists.

Facing his biggest jam of the night with runners on the corners and one out in the fifth, Gray got Austin Jackson to swing on a 3-and-0 count and later struck him out. Vogt also fired the perfect throw to second base to get Jose Iglesias for an inning-ending double play.

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