There wasn’t much to be proud of for both lineups in game 2 of the ALDS series between the Detroit Tigers and Oakland Athletics. Beyond the excellent pitching from Justin Verlander and Sonny Gray, there was one moment of clutch and greatness from Stephen Vogt, driving in the only run in the game at the bottom of the ninth, making it a walk off hit to tie up the series at 1-1.
Vogt went 0-for-6 on his previous at bats. He’s .252 for the season with only 16 RBIs. With the A’s down 0-1 in the series, he wasn’t supposed to be the guy that ends up being the hero, at least for the time being. He is the first player with a walk-off hit as his first career postseason hit since Carlos Guillen in 2000 for the Seattle Mariners against the Chicago White Sox.
It also made the A’s he 8th team in MLB postseason history with a walk-off win to break a 0-0 tie. The last team to do it was the Astros in the 2004 NLCS against the Cardinals, when Jeff Kent homered off Jason Isringhausen. The last AL team to do it was the Twins in the 1991 World Series against the Braves, when Gene Larkin won the World Series in Game 7 with an RBI single off Alejandro Pena.
The rest? It was all Sonny Gray, pitching in his first ever postseason game. He didn’t get the win to his name, but he pitched almost perfectly for eight innings, allowing only 4 hits and two walks while striking out nine batters. Justin Verlander was just as good, allowing four hits and one walk in 7 innings, striking out 11 batters. It was the first time in postseason history that both starters k’d nine or more players while allowing 0 runs.
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. It was awesome because I was still able to locate my pitches without being too shaky. It’s just really nice to come out in front of these home fans in a must-win game and come through.
Someone was going to make a mistake, and it ended up being Al Alburquerque, the second reliever for the Tigers, as both Yoenis Cespedes and Seth Smith hit back to back singles against him, setting up the crowning moment for Vogt. It happened against Rick Porcello, but it was Alburquerque that put them in that mess.
Gray and Verlander epitomize the difference between the Tigers, a team built on expensive, award winning veterans and the A’s, who are about youth and buying cheap. For now, the differences in the payroll make no difference in a series that’s tied at 1-1 or 3-3 when it comes to runs scored, and is simply about the little moments of guys who were almost out of this league seven months ago like Stephen Vogt stepping up when no one expects them to.