I was at Johnathon Sanchez’s no hitter against the San Diego Padres on July 10th, 2009. I was at both the A’s and Giants’ playoff clinching victories last year. This game surpassed them all. In a pitching matchup between the A’s Sonny Gray and the Tigers’ former Cy Young winner Justin Verlander, Detroit looked to have the advantage on paper, and in Vegas but someone forgot to tell the 23 year old Rookie that.
The game of the post season thus far, was in Oakland Saturday night. “You might have to look at the last 5 years to find a game this good,” former big leaguer and MLB TV analyst Harold Reynolds said. Gray matched Verlander pitch for pitch. Verlander gave up 4 hits and struck out 11 while Gray also gave up 4 hits on his way to striking out 9.
Gray was specactular but it was another Rookie that would have a part in the two biggest plays of the game.
In the 5th inning with one out and runners on the corners, Gray battled back from a 3-0 count to strike Tiger center fielder, Austin Jackson out swining. With Detroit’s short shortstop Jose Iglasias trying to steal 2nd, 28 year old Rookie catcher Stephen Vogt had the presence of mind to throw a strike to Oakland second baseman Eric Sogard who tagged Iglasias out at 2nd in a strike-him-out/throw-him-out inning ending double play.
The crowd erupted as yellow rally towels were waved in a frenzy. Even after the huge momentum-changing play, Vogt had more heroics up his sleeve.
After A’s closer Grant Balfour shut down the heart of the Tigers’ lineup in a one, two, three inning the A’s would make their move in the bottom of the 9th.
Detroit set up man, Al Alburquerque would load the bases after an inentional walk to A’s right fielder Josh Reddick. Vogt stepped to the plate with no outs and the bases loaded as 48,292 looked on. Rick Porcello would enter the game to face Vogt. Porcello has been fifth in the Tigers’ starting rotation for the majority of the year.
Vogt had struck out in all three of his previous at bats, but that didn’t matter now. On the third pitch he saw, he smacked a line drive up the middle as the man who started the rally, A’s left fielder Yoenis Cespedes jogged across home plate.
A’s fans lost it as the A’s players rushed the field to mob Vogt rounding first. Strangers high-fiving strangers, consession vendors hugging fans, the place was on fire.
“I tried to go up the middle,” Vogt said after the game (and after cleaning the pie off of his face).
As spectacular as it was, the A’s fans still had their fair share of disapointment and groans (litteraly) when Oakland failed to bring home runners in scoring position prior to the 9th inning.
While walking to the parking lot chants of “Lets go Oakland!” Clap, clap, clap, clap, clap. “Let’s go Oakland!” Clap, clap, clap, clap, clap and “Sonny, Sonny, Sonny” rang throughout the O.co Coliseum halls.
Come to think about it, I don’t know who rushed the field faster, Vogt’s teammates or the grounds crew emerging from center field to prepare the grass for the Raider game tomorrow.
The atmosphere was absolutely electric, this is what playoff baseball is all about.
Game 3 in Detroit is scheduled for Monday (10/7) at 10:07 AM (PST).
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