It was a pitcher's duel between Justin Verlander and Sonny Gray for the majority of the game, but the Oakland Athletics came away with a 1-0 win over the Detroit Tigers at O.co Coliseum to tie the ALDS at 1-1.
Miguel Cabrera got the first hit of the game, singling to left field with two outs in the first inning. Prince Fielder was unable to add on, however, grounding out to Gray to end the inning. The Athletics' Twitter account posted this heading into the bottom half of the inning:
After a one-two-three inning by Verlander, Gray took care of the Tigers in the top of the second, allowing a walk to Alex Avila and an infield single to Don Kelly, but was able to leave both runners stranded on the bases after inducing Jose Iglesias to ground out to end the frame.
Verlander got the A's out on three straight at the bottom of the second, but Gray one-upped the former league MVP, striking out the side in the top of the third inning.
It wasn't until the bottom of the fourth inning that the Athletics finally got their first baserunner, with Josh Donaldson singling to center field. Verlander struck out Brandon Moss right after that to end the inning.
The Tigers were able to get Omar Infante to third base in the fifth inning with one out. They weren't able to capitalize, however, as Stephen Vogt made a great play on this strike-'em-out, throw-'em-out double play to end the inning.
The A's started a rally of their own in the bottom of the inning, getting two singles from Yoenis Cespedes and Seth Smith, but a groundout to third and back-to-back strikeouts quickly ended that threat.
Verlander walked Brandon Moss on four straight pitches in the bottom of the seventh. With two outs in the inning, Josh Reddick hit a line drive to right field, advancing Moss to third with Reddick eventually ending up on second after Torii Hunter tried to throw out Moss.
That brought up Vogt in a pressure-filled situation. He fell behind quickly 0-2, then fouled off a few tough pitches, but Verlander struck out his 11th batter after throwing 10 pitches in the at-bat.
In the top of the eighth, Kelly had an infield single to start things off, then advanced to second on a sacrifice by Iglesias. Gray then struck out Austin Jackson to give him his ninth strikeout of the night. He then got Torii Hunter to pop up and end the inning, stranding Kelly at second.
Verlander's night was over with Drew Smyly taking over in the bottom of the eighth. He allowed a double against his first batter, Alberto Callaspo, who was pinch hitting for Eric Sogard. After a foul out and then a walk, Jim Leyland decided to pull Smyly and replaced him with Al Albuquerque. He struck out both his batters with two nice breaking balls in the dirt to end the inning.
Grant Balfour came in for the ninth inning, ending what was an incredible day for Gray. Balfour produced three straight flyouts to take it to the bottom of the ninth.
Cespedes got things going in the bottom of the inning with a single. Then, to make things even more exciting for the fans in Oakland, Smith hit a shot past Fielder at first into right field to move Cespedes to third with no outs. The Tigers then intentionally walked Reddick to load the bases.
It was finally time for someone to score.
Leyland brought in Rick Porcello to try to pull off a minor miracle, but he was unable to stop the inevitable. Vogt lined a shot into left field, bringing in the game-winning run on a walk-off single.
That one hit just put the A's back into this ALDS battle that so many people had the Tigers sweeping. It just made things a lot more interesting as the series moves to Detroit on Monday, where Anibal Sanchez will be going against Jarrod Parker.
The Tigers are still the favorites to win this series, but the A's are two wins away from proving the doubters wrong.
Justin Verlander: A
Verlander was criticized a lot this season for taking a step back from his 2011-12 form. Still, he had a solid season, pitching 218.1 innings with an ERA of 3.46 and a 13-12 record.
The Tigers' star pitcher finished the day with a strong seven innings of work, allowing just four hits and striking out an impressive 11 batters on 117 pitches. According to the MLB Twitter account, history was made form Verlander's performance:
Even with a lack of offense, Verlander kept going out there and shutting the Athletics down. He was mowing down batters and throwing some nasty curveballs to make them look silly. He was able to work out of some jams to keep the game tied.
Austin Jackson: D
You want your leadoff hitter to get on base to get things rolling, but Jackson was unable to do that in this one.
Jackson went 0-for-4 at the plate, striking out an all four of his at-bats. The Tigers expected more from a guy that hit .272 and had an on-base percentage of .337 in the regular season, but he put up a big goose egg that hurt his team this game.
Jackson is now hitting .125 through two games in this series, so he needs to step it up once this team returns to Detroit.
Sonny Gray: A+
If you didn't know who Gray was before this game, you certainly do now.
The rookie didn't throw a whole lot in the majors this season, pitching just 64 innings in the regular season, but he was fantastic when out there. He had an ERA of just 2.67 with 67 strikeouts and a 1.11 WHIP.
In his first career playoff game, Gray showed up. He pitched eight terrific innings of ball, allowing just four hits and two walks to go along with nine strikeouts. He threw 111 pitches on the day and was greeted warmly by his team and fans after the end of the eighth.
Despite going against a top-tier offense, Gray didn't look afraid at all. He was spotting his pitches on a dime and pitched really aggressively against a batting order that was clearly not prepared for him.
Many rookies would have been intimidated by this matchup, but it's quite clear Gray is not an ordinary rookie and has a very special career ahead of him.
Stephen Vogt: A-
Two of the biggest plays of the day came from Vogt. First, he threw out Iglesias trying to steal second in the fifth inning. And of course, he came away with the walk-off single.
That makes for one nice day.
Still, Vogt struggled at the plate when Verlander was out there, going 0-for-3 with three strikeouts. One of those strikeouts was a bit controversial as it seemed that he hit a ball into the dirt, but he stayed composed and came away with a hit when it mattered most.
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