OAKLAND, Calif. — For much of the season, Stephen Vogt caught Sonny Gray with Triple-A Sacramento. Neither could have pictured pairing up on such a sensational playoff moment for the Athletics when they were 90 miles away in California’s capital.
One a heralded rookie and the other a relative unknown pushing 29, they provided everything Oakland needed in a 1-0 victory Saturday night that tied its AL division series with the Detroit Tigers at one game apiece.
“Knowing that we had worked together for so many innings throughout the year, we were talking before the game: ‘Hey, it’s just like this lineup is similar to a lineup in Triple-A,’” Vogt said.
Gray handled them all with the poise of a seasoned ace.
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 AL 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.
Grant Balfour pitched a 1-2-3 ninth for the win, but it was Gray and Vogt who took celebratory whipped cream pies to the face.
Game 3 is Monday afternoon in Detroit. 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.
“I knew there was going to be a lot of adrenaline and how I was able to harness that adrenaline was going to be a big factor in the game,” Gray said. “It was awesome because I was still able to locate my pitches without being too shaky.”
This marked the first game in postseason history in which both starters had nine strikeouts and no runs allowed.
Alburquerque struck out two 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.