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Big League Stew

ALDS Game 2: Stephen Vogt’s single wins it for Athletics in ninth after Verlander and Gray stage classic pitchers duel

David Brown
Big League Stew

The Oakland Athletics, desperately needing a victory on their home turf to even the best-of-five ALDS, finally pushed across a run in the bottom of the ninth to beat the Detroit Tigers 1-0 on Saturday night. Stephen Vogt, who in the seventh dueled with Detroit's Justin Verlander but failed to bring in any runs, lined an RBI single against right-hander Rick Porcello with the bases loaded to set off the Oakland Coliseum.

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Verlander, along with rookie Sonny Gray of the A's, combined to put on an epic pitching rock concert. Verlander did not figure in the decision, but pitched in vintage fashion: 11 strikeouts, no runs, four hits allowed and a walk. He got every microbe out of 117 pitches thrown. His fastball was consistently in the upper 90s and his curveball should have been against the law. Like Verlander said, he has been working on recapturing his old Cy Young/MVP form — and he did.

• Gray, making his 11th major league start, allowed four hits — three of which didn't leave the infield. He struck out nine and walked two, but pitched out of trouble if he got a little wild. Like Gerrit Cole of the Pirates did Friday in the NL playoffs, it was one heck of debutant ball for Gray.

Traded from the Rays to the A's in April and not on the roster until late June, Vogt had an epic 10-pitch, seven-foul at-bat in the seventh that ended in a strikeout but also ended Verlander's night. Vogt also turned a double play in the fifth, making a perfect throw to second to retire Iglesias after Austin Jackson swung and missed for strike three.

And then there was the winning hit. Vogt was 27 years old, and had played in nearly 600 games in the minor leagues, before getting a cup of coffee with the Rays in 2012. He doesn't even remember the end of the game:

Jose Iglesias played shortstop AND third base for the Tigers on this play.

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Josh Reddick, a power hitter in the middle of the order not asked to bunt often, failed miserably to put one down in the fifth. Yoenis Cespedes and Seth Smith had led off with singles, and Reddick was trying to move them over. The next two batters struck out conventionally. Reddick has company in hanging his head; Manager Bob Melvin made the questionable decision of asking for a bunt in the first place.

• Torii Hunter went 0 for 4 and struck out twice, and he also backed off a high hard one from Gray that wasn't close to hitting him, but he complained anyway. Hunter appeared to psych himself out, before striking out.

• Jackson struck out four times.

• Tigers reliever Al Alburquerque got out of a jam in the eighth, but allowed the first to batters to reach in the ninth to set the A's up for the win.

• Jim Leyland didn't bring in Detroit's best relief pitcher, Joaquin Benoit, when the Tigers needed a strikeout in the ninth.

In the bottom of the seventh, the A's put runners at second and third with two outs. Vogt dueled with Verlander for 10 pitches, fouling off seven of them. Getting good hacks at Verlander's nasty curveball, along with his high-90s fastball, Vogt hung in so long and so well that Tigers catcher Alex Avila just kept going to the mound to give the signs rather than putting down fingers.

In the fifth, Vogt made a strong throw from behind the plate after an Austin Jackson strikeout to get Iglesias stealing second base for a double play. Strike 'em out, throw 'em out.

The Tigers and A's have combined to score six runs in 18 innings so far.

• Verlander's return to dominance

• The decision to try and bunt with Reddick

• Sonny Gray being the next big thing

After a travel day, the scene shifts to Detroit's Comerica Park for Game 3 on Monday at 1 p.m. ET. Right-hander Jarrod Parker goes for the A's, with AL ERA champ Anibal Sanchez going for the Tigers. Do the Tigers ever run out of great starting pitchers?

Are you ready for some playoffs?!
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