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October 6, 2013
After losing the best at-bat of Game 2, Vogt gets the last word

OAKLAND -- Quite a night for Stephen Vogt. The A's rookie catcher had probably the best at-bat of Game 2 of the ALDS, as well as the most crucial defensive play -- and that was all before his bases-loaded single gave the A's a walk-off 1-0 victory in the ninth.

First, the at-bat, which came in the seventh inning of a still-scoreless game, with runners on second and third and two outs. Despite Vogt's being a left-handed hitter and Detroit's Justin Verlander having thrown 107 pitches already, Tigers manager Jim Leyland left his starter in for the chance to finish the inning.

Vogt fouled off the first pitch from Verlander, a mid-90s fastball, then the second, a big, breaking curve. Then he fouled off the third, and the fourth, and the fifth. With each, the crowd of 48,292 got a little louder. As the at-bat went on, Verlander's fastball somehow picked up steam. The first one he threw registered at 96 mph on the radar gun. The third hit 97. The last -- the 10th and final pitch of the at-bat, which Vogt swung through for the strikeout -- reached 98.

Verlander came off the mound yelling and pumping his fists. Afterward, Verlander called it "one heck of a battle."

"I felt like I was giving him everything I had and he was putting good swings on everything," Verlander said.

That included a particularly nasty curveball that Vogt just got a piece of to stay alive. It prompted one of several visits to the mound during the at-bat by Detroit catcher Alex Avila. Verlander said the discussion went like this:

"I put my glove over my mouth, and me and him didn't say a word. ... I just went, 'I got nothing.' And Alex said, 'How about a changeup?' And I said, 'OK, let's go with that. It's going to be a ball, though. I want him to chase.'"

Vogt didn't, and he fouled off several more pitches before swinging through a fastball for the out.

"That's baseball at its best," Leyland said of the confrontation.

"To be able to battle him like that and fight a lot of pitches off -- obviously I didn't come through, ended up with a punch-out bullet, (but) I felt pretty good about that at-bat," Vogt said.

Vogt, though, got the last word when he came to the plate with the bases loaded and no outs in the ninth and lined Rick Porcello's 1-1 pitch into left-center field for the walk-off hit. It earned him the celebratory pie in the face and Gatorade shower during an on-field TV interview, which Vogt termed, "Outstanding."

"I totally forgot about it, to be honest," he said. "I don't know, I was still blacked out I guess. But they were nice. They did it gentle. They could have done it a lot harder than that."

* As much as the at-bat with Verlander was great theater, Vogt's defense in the fifth was pivotal for the A's. With Tigers on first and third and one out, Jose Iglesias took off for second base on Sonny Gray's full-count pitch to Austin Jackson. Iglesias had just shown his speed beating out an infield single. But after Jackson swung and missed at the pitch, Vogt delivered a strike to second base to catch Iglesias stealing and end the inning.

"(Gray) made a great pitch on the outside corner, cut away form Austin's bat, and I was able to put a throw on the money and nail him," Vogt said. "That was a huge play for us in a lot of ways."

It maintained a scoreless game and ended the inning before Torii Hunter could bat with potentially two runners in scoring position. A's manager Bob Melvin said Vogt's throw was "as big of a play as ultimately the hit he got," and added that it came with a degree of added difficulty.

"Sonny is usually really 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. ... It looked like there was interference or obstruction in front of him that he had to throw over, but your instincts tell you to throw the ball."

Vogt was the A's best catcher during the regular season against would-be base-stealers, throwing out 9 of 29 (31 percent). None were bigger than Saturday's.

* In other A's notes, Yoenis Cespedes went 2-for-4 and has now hit safely in all seven postseason games he's played in. It's the longest career-opening postseason hitting streak in Oakland history.

Cespedes also got through the first two games without really having to test his sore right shoulder throwing from left field. Now he has another full day to rest it, which can only help, despite the fact Melvin has said Cespedes feels fine throwing.

* On the opposite end of the spectrum is Brandon Moss, who went 0-for-3 with three strikeouts Saturday. Combining the first two games of this series with last year's ALDS, Moss has gone 3-for-22 in seven games with 13 strikeouts.

* One Game 2 decision that ended up not mattering -- the A's opting to have Josh Reddick bunt with runners on first and second and nobody out in the fifth. Reddick has two sacrifice bunts in his career, and he popped up his attempt Saturday, which shifted the momentum of the inning back toward Verlander, who struck out the next two hitters.

Melvin was asked, however, if he considered having Coco Crisp bunt after Alberto Callaspo's leadoff double in the eighth. Callaspo was ultimately stranded as well. Melvin's response: "No."

* The A's avoided a 2-0 deficit heading to Detroit with the win Saturday night. Eight times in the franchise's history they have fallen behind 2-0 in a playoff series. They went on to lose all eight. So when closer Grant Balfour said after Game 2 that it was "kind of a must-win," he was being candid.

No workout for the A's on the off-day. They'll use the time to rest ahead of Monday's 1:07 p.m. local time first pitch (10:07 a.m. PT), when it'll be Jarrod Parker going against A.L. regular-season ERA champion Anibal Sanchez. We'll be on hand for it.

-- Matt Kawahara

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About Bay Area Baseball

Matt KawaharaMatt Kawahara was born in Sacramento and attended McClatchy High School and UC Berkeley, where he wrote for the independent student paper The Daily Californian. He graduated from Cal in 2010 and started at The Sacramento Bee as a summer intern. He joined The Bee’s sports staff in fall 2011.
Phone: (916) 321-1015.
On Twitter: @matthewkawahara.

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