The all-rookie battery of Sonny Gray and Stephen Vogt upstaged the Justin Verlander show Saturday at the Oakland Coliseum.
Verlander, the 2011 Cy Young and MVP winner, and 2012 runner-up in Cy Young voting, completed seven innings, striking out 11 batters, allowing four hits and walking just one runner without allowing a run. He was matched inning-by-inning by Gray, the A’s 2011 first round draft selection.
Gray pitched through eight innings before turning the ball over to Grant Balfour, who earned the win in relief. In his eight innings of work, Gray also allowed four hits, striking out nine batters and allowing just two walks on 111 pitches.
“Vogty called a great game,” Gray said following the game. “Defense played great, made some really great plays. It’s just really nice to come out in front of these home fans, in a must-win game for us, and come out with a win. It’s just an awesome feeling.”
The A’s young pitcher showed the type of poise and competitiveness you would expect from a ten-year veteran, not a rookie making his first postseason start.
“He made pitches. He competed,” stated Vogt. “For a 23‑year‑old kid like that on the stage that he was on tonight, can’t say enough about the job he did.”
Even Verlander had nothing but praise for the A’s rookie pitcher:
“You know, Sonny did one heck of a job. 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 postseason pressure. He handled himself like a veteran and it was impressive.”
Stephen Vogt, the other half of Oakland’s battery, in addition to catching Gray’s masterpiece, came through in the ninth inning with the walk-off single against Rick Porcello with the bases loaded to give Oakland the series tying win and send 48,000+ raucous fans home happy.
Porcello entered the game with the bases loaded after Al Albuquerque allowed back-to-back singles by Yoenis Cespedes and Seth Smith to begin the ninth inning. Albuquerque then intentionally walked Josh Reddick to setup the double-play at any base. Rather than squander another scoring opportunity, Vogt knocked the ball through the infield which was playing in, and earned himself a celebratory pie to the face and Gatorade shower following an on-field celebration by the team.
Cespedes had another fine game, going 2-for-4 and keeping his postseason batting average at .500. Smith also collected a pair of hits, going 2-for-4, in his first postseason appearance this year at the designated hitter position.
The A’s will now head to Detroit with the series tied at 1-1 and Jarrod Parker on the hill to face off against Anibal Sanchez, the American League ERA leader, at 10AM PT on Monday morning.
All photos courtesy of Getty Images. All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise noted.