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Battery mates power A's 1-0 series-tying win

The SportsXchange

OAKLAND, Calif. -- It was just like old times on Saturday night for Oakland A's rookie right-hander Sonny Gray and catcher Stephen Vogt, who spent much of the season starring together at Triple-A Sacramento.

Only this time, Gray and Vogt shined together on the major-league's postseason stage in Game 2 of the American League Division Series against the Detroit Tigers.

Gray pitched eight shutout innings and Vogt hit a walk-off single with the bases loaded in the ninth inning as the A's beat Detroit 1-0 and pulled even in the series, which moves to Comerica Park for the next two games on Monday and Tuesday.

"I've thrown to him all year," Gray said of Vogt. "We started off in Sacramento and we both made it here. We have great chemistry."

Yoenis Cespedes grounded a leadoff single to left in the ninth off Tigers right-hander Al Albuquerque and then moved to third when Seth Smith roped a single to right past a diving Prince Fielder at first. Albuquerque intentionally walked Josh Reddick, loading the bases, and Tigers right-hander Rick Porcello came in from the bullpen.

With the infield pulled in and the outfield playing shallow, Vogt lined a 1-1 fastball to left, bringing Cespedes home.

"That's what you dream of," Vogt said of hitting with the bases loaded in the ninth. "I was just looking for something out over the plate, stay in the middle of the field. You bring the infield in, you want to stay in the middle of the field. So, just fortunate to come through."

Gray allowed four hits while striking out a career-high tying nine as he was serenaded by chants of Son-ny! Son-ny! after nearly every inning he pitched. Gray issued just two walks.

Tigers right-hander Justin Verlander blanked the A's for seven innings on four hits, striking out 11 and walking only one in a 117-pitch night but got no decision.

"In a game like this, you lose sight of how good Verlander was," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "He was absolutely terrific. This is postseason pitching at its best."

A's closer Grant Balfour got the win, pitching a scoreless ninth, but the night belonged to Gray.

"Sonny did a heck of a job," Verlander said. "He was able to use his angst and his energy for positive. He handled himself like a veteran. He was real impressive."

The A's have blanked the Tigers for 17 consecutive innings in the series after giving up three run in the first inning of a 3-2 loss in Game 1.

Gray looked next to untouchable, following a simple game plan of sticking to his strengths -- a nasty curve and a mid-90s fastball.

"I was very excited, and I was real glad to pitch this game," Gray said. "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 key."

The A's nearly broke through against Verlander in the seventh. Brandon Moss led off with a four-pitch walk -- Verlander's only free pass of the night. Then with two out, Reddick lined a single to right and Moss raced to third, just beating Torii Hunter's throw, as Reddick took second.

That brought Vogt to the plate and Verlander struck him out with a 98 mph fastball to end a 10-pitch battle that included seven foul balls. As Verlander walked off the mound, he pumped his fist and yelled as the A's deafening sellout crowd of 48,292 went quiet, but he was done for the night.

"That put the nail in the coffin for me," Verlander said of Vogt's long at-bat.

In the top of the eighth, Tigers left fielder Don Kelly led off with an infield single, lining a shot off Gray's glove. Jose Iglesias moved him to second with a sacrifice bunt, but Gray struck out Austin Jackson and retired Hunter on a popup.

Pinch-hitter Alberto Callaspo ripped a leadoff double in the bottom of the eighth off Tigers left-hander Drew Smyly. After Coco Crisp popped out, Jed Lowrie walked and Albuquerque came on. He struck out Josh Donaldson and Moss then high-stepped off the mound and to the dugout.

Verlander retired the first 11 batters he faced, striking out five and allowing only one loud out, Eric Sogard's line drive that third baseman Miguel Cabrera snagged to end the third.

But Donaldson broke up his bid for a perfect game, grounding a 3-2 fastball to center field for a single with two out in the fourth. Verlander ended that threat with his third strikeout of the inning as Moss watched a 1-2 curveball catch the inside corner.

If he had any postseason nerves, Gray certainly didn't show them early. In the first three innings, he struck out five and allowed just two singles, one to Cabrera and the other to Kelly. Gray struck out the side in the third, fanning Jackson, Hunter and Cabrera in order.

The Tigers put some pressure on Gray in the fifth after Omar Infante led off with a four-pitch walk and moved to second on Kelly's hit-and-run groundout. Jose Iglesias moved Infante to third with an infield single. But after falling behind in the count 3-0 to Jackson, Gray struck him out with a 94 mph fastball and Vogt gunned down Iglesias at second on an attempted steal, ending the inning.

"Stephen got off an unbelievable throw," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "That was a huge play in the game."

NOTES: Melvin tweaked his starting lineup for Game 2. First baseman Daric Barton, who went 0-for-3 with three strikeouts in Game 1, was out of the lineup. Moss, who started at designated hitter on Friday, moved to first base and Smith started at designated hitter. ... Leyland made one change to his lineup for Game 2. Kelly started in left field, replacing struggling Andy Dirks, who went 0-for-3 with a strikeout in Game 1. Another option was to use Jhonny Peralta in left, but Leyland said he went with the better defender to play behind Verlander. ... Bob Welch, the 1990 AL Cy Young Award winner and a member of Oakland's 1989 World Series title team, threw out the ceremonial first pitch.
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