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Vogt delivers walk-off hit, Gray shines in A's Game 2 victory

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Making his first career playoff start, A's rookie Sonny Gray was terrific in pitching eight shutout innings. - EZRA SHAW/GETTY IMAGES
  • Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
  • Making his first career playoff start, A's rookie Sonny Gray was terrific in pitching eight shutout innings.

OAKLAND -- Sonny Gray and Stephen Vogt kicked off the 2013 season as battery-mates in Sacramento and they teamed up again on Saturday, lifting the A's to a 1-0 playoff win over the Detroit Tigers at O.co Coliseum.

After Gray pitched eight scoreless innings in his first postseason start, Vogt, his catcher, broke a 0-0 tie by delivering a walk-off hit in the bottom of the ninth inning, evening the American League Division Series at 1-1 heading into Game 3 in Detroit.

"That's what you dream of," Vogt said. "You want to be in that position."

Vogt, who toiled around in the minor leagues for six years before landing a spot on the A's roster this season, stepped up to the plate with the bases loaded in the ninth after Yoenis Cespedes led off with a single, Seth Smith followed it up with a single of his own and Josh Reddick drew an intentional walk.

The 28-year-old catcher from Visalia then lined a 1-1 pitch from Rick Porcello into left field and moments later, he received a pie in the face via Reddick.

Gray put the A's in a position to win the game by going pitch-for-pitch with Justin Verlander in his 11th big-league start, holding the vaunted Tigers lineup to four hits over eight innings. In doing so, Gray became only the second rookie pitcher in major-league history to toss at least eight scoreless innings in a postseason game while striking out nine or more batters.

"Sonny did one heck of a job," Verlander said. "He was able to use his angst and energy for positive and for a lot of young guys, it works against them."

Vogt said Gray took the mound with the composure he brings to every start.

"You could tell in the bullpen he was going to have a great night," he said. "He didn't change anything about who he was. He went out there on that stage and stayed Sonny Gray."

Vogt said they joked about how the Tigers lineup resembled the Fresno Grizzlies in Triple-A with their aggressive approach at the plate.

"Obviously, they're a little bit better than that, but similar-type hitters and to think about it that way rather than to think about the names," Vogt said. "Sonny kept his composure."

Gray fanned nine batters and he struck out the side in the third after Torii Hunter gestured toward him, taking exception to a high-and-tight fastball.

The 23-year-old right-hander said the altercation with one of his "favorite players growing up" gave him an emotional boost.

"He's a great guy," Gray said. "He's known as a really great guy and it got me fired up a little bit -- it did. After that, I had a little extra adrenaline, I really did."

Vogt and Gray also teamed up to thwart the Tigers' best scoring chance with runners at the corners in the fifth. First, Gray struck out Austin Jackson for the third time and then Vogt brought the inning to a close by throwing out Jose Iglesias as he tried to swipe second.

A's manager Bob Melvin said Vogt's throw was "as big of a play" as his walk-off hit.

"Sonny is usually pretty quick to the plate, but that particular pitch, he needed to make a pitch and was probably as slow to the plate as he was all game," Melvin said. "Stephen got off an unbelievable throw."

As Gray put zeroes up on the board, Verlander, who pitched a complete-game shutout against the A's in Game 5 of last year's ALDS, extended his postseason scoreless-innings streak against the A's to 22 frames.

He matched his strikeout total in Game 5 of last year, recording 11. But he was yanked after throwing 117 pitches in seven innings.

The last batter Verlander faced was Vogt, who fouled off seven pitches in a 10-pitch at-bat before striking out, stranding runners on second and third.

Verlander said the battle was "one of the best at-bats against me in a long time."

"I think that put the nail in the coffin," Verlander said. "I went up to [117] pitches and [Tigers Manger] Jim [Leyland] wasn't going to send me back out."

pgackle@sfexaminer.com