Oakland, Calif. – All even, but in a very odd way.
The Tigers have stopped scoring runs.
Maybe temporarily, maybe not. But if not, well, the last anybody looked, you still need runs to win.
Scoreless in their last 17 innings, a drought that didn’t cost them Game 1 but caught up to them on Saturday night, the Tigers lost 1-0 on a walk-off single to the Oakland Athletics in Game 2 of their Division Series.
Now it’s tied at one win each.
Game 3 will played at Comerica Park on Monday afternoon.
After getting an impressive eight-inning start from rookie Sonny Gray, the A’s scored the winning run in the bottom of the ninth — Yoenis Cespedes’ leadoff single off losing pitcher Al Alburquerque getting it started.
What turned it into a scoring chance, however, was Seth Smith’s single to right that advanced Cespedes to third.
And the hit that won it was Stephen Vogt’s bases-loaded single to left off Rick Porcello.
Hoping that Porcello would get Vogt to hit something on the ground, manager Jim Leyland had called for an intentional walk to Josh Reddick to load the bases.
Then he brought his infield in.
But the mountainous challenge of taking over with the bags packed and nobody out proved too steep. On his third pitch, Porcello gave up the liner that won it for the A’s — and beat the Tigers.
What a marvelous duel it had been all night, though, the first time in postseason history that both starting pitchers struck out at least nine while allowing no runs.
Verlander struck out 11 in seven innings. Gray struck out nine in eight.
“You could see that runs were going to be hard to come by, and they were,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said.
“Gray was everything as advertised, a live fastball coupled with an electric curve. I have to give him a lot of credit. I mean we’re not swinging the bats the way we’re capable, but you can’t take anything away from that performance.
“That was vintage Verlander, though. He was terrific. It was postseason pitching, and tonight you saw it at its best.”
To Vogt, the chance to win the game in the ninth was “what you dream of” — but not his first opportunity to put the A’s in front.
With runners at second and third and two outs in the seventh, he extended Verlander to a 10-pitch at-bat, fouling off seven pitches before striking out.
Against Porcello, though, he made solid contact.
“I ended up up with a punch-out bullet,” Vogt said about his duel with Verlander. “But I felt good about that at-bat.”
He felt better about the next one.
“Just fortunate to come through,” he said. “Look for something out over the plate, stay in the middle of the field.”
A winning formula.
Vogt was also instrumental in shutting down the Tigers’ best threat in the fifth. With runners on first and third and one out against Gray, and with a 3-0 count on Austin Jackson, the Tigers were a pitch from loading the bases.
But, with the green light, Jackson fouled off the 3-0 pitch and eventually struck out swinging as Jose Iglesias took off from first for second.
Vogt threw him out to end the threat and the inning.
“Sonny is usually really quick to the plate,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said, “but on that particular pitch, needing to make a pitch, he was probably as slow to the plate as he was all game.
“And Stephen got off an unbelievable throw. That was a huge play — as big of a play as ultimately the hit he got.”
The Tigers ended up with just four hits, all singles. After leading 3-0 in the first inning of Game 1, they’ve been outscored 3-0, which means this: The A’s aren’t scoring much, but the Tigers not at all.
“We’ll go home and hopefully get the bats going a little bit,” Leyland said.
The game being the masterpiece it was from both starters, it was no surprise that they spoke highly of each other when it was over.
“He did one heck of a job,” Verlander said of Gray. “He was able to turn his angst and energy (about his first postseason start) into a positive. For a lot of young guys, it works against them. That’s why veterans usually seem to do better in postseason pressure. But he handled himself like a veteran.”
What was important for Gray, though, was to not get caught up in the fact that Verlander was his counterpart.
“I knew he was throwing the ball well, but if I’d looked at it as facing Justin Verlander, one of their hitters is going to get you,” he said. “because they’ve got one of the best lineups in all of baseball.”
That they do.
But it’s a lineup that’s been silent for more than a few innings.
For the last 17 of them, in fact.