If you were looking for unlikely heroes of the 2013 MLB postseason, Stephen Vogt has you covered. The Athletics catcher hit a walk-off single to give Oakland a 1-0 victory over the Detroit Tigers on Saturday night, tying the club's best-of-five ALDS series at 1-1.
The hit came off of Tigers pitcher Rick Porcello, who relieved a struggling Al Alburquerque to face Vogt. Alburquerque, who got Detroit out of a jam in the eighth inning, started the ninth by allowing singles to Yoenis Cespedes and Seth Smith before intentionally walking Josh Reddick to load the bases.
Vogt came up and looked at the first two pitches from Porcello, making just his eighth relief appearance of his five-year career. The 28-year-old catcher then roped the third pitch of the at-bat just above shortstop and into the left-field grass at O.co Coliseum to bring home an already-celebrating Cespedes.
The walk-off hit came after an otherwise frustrating night at the dish for Vogt. He struck out in each of his first three plate appearances against Justin Verlander, the Tigers starter who went seven scoreless in a no-decision.
Verlander allowed just four hits over those seven frames, whiffing 11 Athletics hitters and allowing only five baserunners. Oakland had only two men reach scoring position on a night filled with brilliant pitching performances from both sides.
Oakland starter Sonny Gray matched Verlander pitch for pitch, going eight innings scoreless before giving way to the pitcher of record, Grant Balfour. Making his first postseason start, Gray showed no signs of wilting under the pressure of facing Detroit's vaunted lineup. The Tigers' top-five batters recorded only one hit over 20 plate appearances. Outfielder Austin Jackson struck out four times, making up nearly half of Gray's nine whiffs.
Who wins Game 3?
But the story of Saturday night was Vogt, an unheralded former Tampa Bay Rays farmhand getting his first crack at significant big league action at age 28. He played in only 47 regular-season games, batting .252 with four home runs and 16 RBI. The Athletics have highly touted prospect Derek Norris and veteran Kurt Suzuki on their roster for the ALDS—a rare three-catcher system—but have chosen Vogt in each of the first two games.
While the ninth-inning single represents his only hit in seven postseason at-bats, it's safe to say manager Bob Melvin is comfortable in his decision right now.
The two teams will now take a travel day on Sunday before resuming the series at 1:07 p.m. ET Monday afternoon. Anibal Sanchez will go for the Tigers, with Jarrod Parker taking the mound for the Athletics.
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