Stephen Vogt hit .252 during the regular season for the Oakland Athletics. But if the A's beat the Tigers in the ALDS and advance through the postseason, it's very possible no A's fan is going to remember that. They could very well speak fondly of the second-year catcher's accomplishments in Oakland's Game 2 victory over Detroit.
Vogt's bases-loaded single off the Tigers' Rick Porcello in the bottom of the ninth gave the A's a 1-0 win in a brilliant pitching duel between Justin Verlander and rookie Sonny Gray. The series is now tied 1-1 as it moves to Detroit for Game 3.
Yet the walkoff hit wasn't Vogt's only highlight moment on Saturday night. In the fifth inning, he threw out Jose Iglesias attempting to steal second base after Gray struck out Austin Jackson, giving Oakland an inning-ending double play that stranded Omar Infante on third and killed the Tigers' best scoring opportunity of the game.
Vogt also helped make sure Verlander wasn't a factor by the end of the game, working the Tigers' ace hard during a grueling at-bat in the seventh inning. The catcher fouled off seven pitches in a 10-pitch battle with runners on second and third. Vogt struck out to end the inning, but Verlander was done after that and Detroit had to turn the game over to its bullpen.
But we're burying the lede here. The A's wouldn't have been in position for that walkoff win if not for Gray's stellar effort.
Starting a playoff game against one of the most formidable lineups in the league and opposing one of the best pitchers in baseball was asking a lot from a rookie. But Gray didn't flinch, matching Verlander inning for inning and actually outlasting him by one frame. In his eight innings, he allowed just four hits with nine strikeouts and two walks.
Did we mention that this was only the 11th start of Gray's major league career? In his 10 regular season starts, he compiled a 2.85 ERA while striking out 61 hitters in 60 innings. Oakland manager Bob Melvin wasn't playing some sort of wacky hunch by giving Gray the Game 2 start. But the skipper's faith in his rookie pitcher was most certainly justified by Gray's outstanding effort.
The Tigers return home to Comerica Park wondering where their offense has gone. After scoring three runs against Bartolo Colon in the first inning of Game 1 of this series, the Tigers' lineup has gone 17 innings without scoring a run. Detroit really only had three realistic opportunities to score and only advanced a runner as far as third base once in the ballgame.
But the A's know how to win games in the bottom of the ninth. During the regular season, they had eight walkoff victories.
Game 3 of the ALDS is scheduled for Monday at 1:07 p.m. ET in Detroit. Jarrod Parker gets the start for the A's and Anibal Sanchez will take the mound for the Tigers. The game will be broadcast on MLB Network.