ALDS Game 2: A's 1, Tigers 0: Marvelous pitcher's duel ends in walk off loss, offense lets down Justin Verlander

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

The Tigers waste an excellent Justin Verlander performance, their scoreless streak reaching 17 innings in a walk off the A's. The ALDS heads to Detroit tied at 1-all.

Final - 10.5.2013 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Detroit Tigers 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 4 0
Oakland Athletics 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 8 0
WP: Grant Balfour (1 - 0)
LP: Al Alburquerque (0 - 1)

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In a tremendous pitcher's duel, the Oakland Athletics salvaged a split in game 2 of the ALDS with a walk off 1-0 victory over the Detroit Tigers. Neither starter, Justin Verlander or Sonny Gray, would allow a run. But in the bottom of the ninth, the A's were able to load the bases on Al Alburquerque. Facing Rick Porcello, Stephen Vogt singled home Yoenis Cespedes to plate the only run of the game, giving the A's a badly needed win.

Shutout for a 13th time this season, the Tigers have not scored a run in 17 innings. Their offense has gone completely flaccid after scoring three in the first inning of game one.

Gray may be a rookie, but pitched like a veteran. He had the Tigers flummoxed all night long, allowing just four hits over eight shutout innings. Grant Balfour pitched a scoreless ninth, taking the win.

"I have to give Gray a lot of credit." "He was tremendous." -Jim Leyland, in praise of A's rookie starter Sonny Gray

The Verlander who showed up in Oakland was of 2011-12 vintage, striking out 11 in seven shutout innings. Verlander didn't allow a hit until the fourth inning, and only allowed four overall. After bailing out Drew Smyly in the eighth, manager Jim Leyland elected to roll with Alburquerque in the ninth, who would ultimately take the loss.

The Tigers could only muster four hits, two coming off the bat of reserve outfielder Don Kelly. The top of the Tigers' batting order has brutal evening, one thru five combining for a 1-for-20, seven strikeout performance ... or lack thereof.

The A's offense wasn't much better. They struck out 13 times (29 over two games) and had just eight hits on the night, but three came in their ninth inning rally. Along with Vogt's heroics, Yoenis Cespedes and Seth Smith each had two hits.

Post game, I lost track of how many times Leyland said "I have to give them credit" during the presser. What else could he do? Otherwise he would be throwing his players under the bus. His offense may deserve the treatment, but it's something he'd never do. Not in front of the media, anyway.

Blame for the loss can be pointed in several directions. Yes, Leyland's moves didn't work. I'm still scratching my head over the botched hit and run call in the fifth. Alburquerque pitching two innings is just daring the baseball Gods to knock you down a peg or three.

But in the end, none of that made a difference. why? You can't win if you don't score. And the Tigers haven't scored a run in 17 innings. Leyland doesn't swing the bats. So if you must point fingers of blame, point them at anyone wearing the Olde English D who carries a long stick of ash toward a white plate.

As hard as this loss was to take we can't forget the Tigers did accomplish what they needed to do - earn a split in Oakland. They head to Detroit having swiped home field advantage. The A's now have to win two of three games from Anibal Sanchez, Doug Fister and Max Scherzer, with Verlander available to pitch relief in game five.

Good luck with that.

Due to the beyond excellent pitching over the past two nights and knowing who's yet to pitch, I still love the Tigers' chances in this series. But they will hit, right? RIGHT?

The last time Justin Verlander faced the A's was a disaster, a game which featured a torturous 47 pitch first inning in an August 27 loss. Tonight was a different story. Verlander needed just 13 pitches to retire the side.

Top of the second, the Tigers threatened against A's starter Sonny Gray (who looks so young, I doubt he shaves more than once a month). What resulted is the TTBDNS portion of the recap.

Alex Avila worked a four pitch walk with one out. After two were down, much derided Don Kelly (wh0 entered the game hitting a decent .286/.273/.476 in 14 playoff games),bounced a single into the right side hole. Two on and two out, Jose Iglesias bounced to Josh Donaldson, who stepped on third to end the inning.

Good sign - The Tigers had three base runners in the first two innings off Gray.

Bad sign - The Tigers stranded all three.

Too early to worry sign - It had been only two innings.

As for Verlander, he hadset down six straight through two innings ... with help from much despised umpire CB Bucknor. Seth Smith was punched out on a pitch low and outside to end the second. Calling it borderline is being generous.

Of course, Austin Jackson was punched out himself to start the third on a very similar (makeup) call.

Top of the third, Gray set the Tigers down in order. There was a bit of controversy when Torii Hunter was upset over a high and tight fastball, pointing at Gray. All the gesture did was fire up the Raiders Nation style crowd in the upper reaches of the

Verlander continued his dominance in the third, another 1-2-3 inning leaving the A's still looking for their first hit. The one issue was Verlander's pitch count, 46 through three.

A pitcher's duel was on in earnest.

"I tried to get in his (Gray's) head. I think I just pissed him off." -Torii Hunter on his pointing at Gray after an inside pitch

Bottom of fourth and one strike away from ending the frame, Verlander's no-hit bid came to an end. After 11 straight A's had taken a seat to start the game, Donaldson slapped a single up the middle to snap the string. Verlander calmly stranded him, Brandon Moss becoming his seventh strikeout victim to end the inning on a wicked breaking ball.

Funny, all those fans who wanted Verlander in the pen for the playoffs were nowhere to be found.

To start off the fifth, Gray walked Omar Infante on four pitches. In an attempt to get something going, Jim Leyland went to the hit and run, Kelly advancing Infante to second with a ground ball. Iglesias was badly fooled by a Gray breaking ball, but got enough of it to send a dribbler past the mound, Iglesias was halfway down the right field line by the time Jed Lowrie got the throw to first, Infante taking third on the infield single.

Leyland then made a nonsensical call which is bound to be (deservedly) second guessed.

The count 3-2 on Jackson, whom we all know is prone to strikeout, Leyland sent Iglesias. The worst case scenario went down. Jackson struck out, Iglesias catcher Stephen Vogt nailing Iglesias at second for a ridiculously dumb end of the inning.

I'm sure we'll hear after the fact the call was made to avoid the double play. Good call ... when the batter isn't someone who leads the team in strikeouts. Who might that be? Jackson with 129.

Bottom half of the inning, Yoenis Cespedes led off with a liner to right which looked catchable, but Hunter held up and allowed the ball to drop at his feet. Smith followed with a second single to right. Seemingly out of nowhere, Verlander was in his first jam of the night.

A's manager Bob Melvin proceeded to break out his well worn book of incorrect managerial moves, which told him Josh Reddick should sacrifice. Reddick squared around ... and popped up to Cabrera for the first out.

Up next was Vogt, who was correctly called out for the wrong reason. He swung and missed, Avila catching the pitch on the short hop. Bucknor called it a foul tip and catch. Either way, Vogt was a K victim.

A fired up Verlander then struck out Eric Sogard, his ninth whiff of the game. Verlander had pitched out of a two on, no one out jam, the score still knotted at nil-nil going into the sixth.

The Tigers had their 2-3-4 hitters come to the plate in the top of the sixth. Hunter struck out on three pitches, Cabrera sent a can of corn to right and Fielder bounced weakly to first.

Not the inning I was hoping for.

GNot even close. ray. was in good shape, pitch-wise. In four of his ten regular season starts, Gray had pitched more than six innings. His pitch count stood at 85 through six tonight, plenty of wriggle room for another inning or two.

Verlander entered the bottom of the sixth at 85 pitches. He exited the sixth at 94 pitches and ten K's after a relatively easy 1-2-3 inning.

The pitcher's duel rolled on into the seventh. It was more of the same for the Tigers, who were meekly retired in order. Gray had needed just 19 pitches to record his last six outs. His high pitch count on the season was 117 (he had two games of 100+), and stood at 97 at the end of seven.

Good sign: The Tigers weren't losing despite their lack of offense.

Bad sign: The Tigers hadn't scored in 15 innings.

It was now time to worry.

Verlander started the bottom half of the seventh by walking Moss on four pitches. Cespedes followed up by hitting a hard line drive to right center, Hunter struggling mightily with the lights before making an awkward, lunging catch. He then dropped the ball turning to throw, but it was correctly ruled he did so on the transfer

With two out, Reddick lined a hanging breaking ball to right. Moss took a big chance on the base hit in making the turn and heading to third. If Hunter's throw is on-time and on-line, Moss is out. The throw was on-time but off-line, which gave Moss just enough of an edge to beat the tag. Reddick took second on the throw.

A pair of runners in scoring position and the going apeshit, Verlander and Vogt battled hammer and tong. Vogt fouled off seven pitches before Verlander finally got the inning ending K on the tenth pitch of the at bat.

An extremely fired up Verlander leaped off the mound, pumping both fists after stranding a pair.

Top of the eighth, Kelly led off with a line drive off the leg of Gray, good for his second hit of the game. Who is the only player with two hits in a pitcher's duel? Don freaking Kelly.

Playing for one run, Leyland had Iglesias sacrifice Kelly to second. But Gray got the second out when Jackson's brutal game at the plate got even worse, earning the Golden Sombrero with his fourth strikeout. Hunter couldn't drive in the run either, popping up to end the threat.

Deserving a better fate than a no-decision, Verlander was pulled after 117 pitches and seven scoreless innings.

Drew Smyly took over and immediately gave up a double to pinch hitter Alberto Callaspo. The veteran infielder jumped all over Smyly's 2-2 fastball and lined it into the left field corner.

Smyly recorded a big out, inducing Crisp to popup. But he walked Lowrie. Two on, one out and Donaldson due up, Smyly had forced Leyland's hand. Making the call to the bullpen ... Oh. Dear. Lord. Al Alburquerque entered the game.

Alburquerque dodged a couple of bullets, Donaldson swinging through hanging sliders. The count 1-2, Alburquerque finally threw a wicked slider, Donaldson only mustering a weak wave at strike three.

Turns out our fears were unfounded.  Alburquerque was on his game, eating up Moss with sliders for the 13th A's strikeout of the game. Give the man credit, Alburquerque did the his job and did it well.

Top of nine, Gray was given the rest of the night off. The A's were going with their closer, Grant Balfour. The ball hit hard by the Tigers was by Martinez with two down, but his line drive was straight at Reddick, ending the inning.

The Tigers' offense had disappeared in the the popping of Cabrera's abdominal muscle. Normally firing howitzers when firing on all cylinders, the Tigers' offense had shown less power than a pop gun in 18 innings in Oakland.

On to the bottom of the ninth. Tempting fate in a HUGE way, Leyland kept his best reliever in reserves and kept Alburquerque on the mound. When you refuse to use your best reliever in a 0-0 game in the bottom of the ninth, fate answered in the exact way you expect.

"I brought in Porcello to get the ball on the ground." -Leyland, when asked about his bullpen strategy

Cabrera guarding the line, Cespedes singled through the large hole in the left side.  Smith did the same, his going to right. Runners on the corners,Reddick was intentionally walked.

At that point, Leyland made the call for his number five starter, Rick Porcello. In need of a double play, he was hoping Procello could get a ground ball.

He didn't get it. Vogt lined the third pitch he saw to left for an RBI single, ending the game. It wasn't a bad pitch, low and inside. But ... baseball.

Game over. Your final score is A's 1, Tigers 0.

Rob says it all. To be sure, it was a great game. One which will be talked about for a long time. But much like the other gut wrenching losses I've seen over the past few years, it's one I rather forget.

How do I sum up a gut punch of a playoff loss? I really hate baseball sometimes. This being one of those times.

The ALDS is knotted at 1-all and heads back to Detroit for Monday's game three. Right-hander Jarrod Parker (2013 stats: 12-8, 3.97 ERA) gets the ball for the A's, while the Tigers roll with AL ERA leader Anibal Sanchez (2013 stats:14-8, 2.57 ERA)

In a 19 start stretch from May 28 to September 10, Parker didn't lose a game, posting a 9-0 record and 2.61 ERA. But In his last three starts to end the season, Parker was 1-2 with a 9.21 ERA and 1.50 WHIP. The losses Parker suffered in September were two of his worst performances of the 2013, allowing 14 earned runs and 15 hits in 8 2/3 innings.

Sanchez has been excellent at Comerica Park this season, posting an 8-3 record and 2.70 ERA. Then again, the Tigers' number three man in the playoff rotation has been even better in the second half of the season, 7-2 with a sterling 2.20 ERA in 14 post All-Star game starts. Sanchez's last appearance was a gem, shutting out the Marlins over five innings on just two hits, striking out 8.

Monday's first pitch is set for a 1:07 PM. Word is there's a baseball flu going around Michigan which may reach epidemic proportions Monday morning.


Source: FanGraphs


This is your "Player who spent time with both the A's and Tigers back in the day" stat of the night:

A great lead off man, if only Phillps could lose 25 years of age... Hell, even at 54 years old, I don't think Phillups would end up with a Golden Sombrero.

The TBS broadcast team got off to a not unexpected bad start when Dennis Eckersley called Justin Verlander, Jason. Of course, "Jason Verlander" has a very negative connotation with the Tigers' fan base.

Personally, I tried getting the live radio call synced with the TV broadcast, but radio is a good 15 seconds ahead. I switched back to the TBS boneheads.

Miguel Cabrera's first inning single extended his streak of reaching base in the post season to 26 games.

Don Kelly can't catch a break, drilled by Omar Infante while standing on deck.




It led to far too many "Dong" Kelly jokes being made.

Meanwhile, in the Tigers' radio booth:

TBS hit a new low in the fourth inning with this inane and incorrect graphic during Coco Crisp's at bat.


Crisp had 22 home runs on the season. For some reason TBS believed all of them were of the lead off variety. Good Lord, this is the best baseball can find to carry their playoff games?

Turns out Justin Verlander is good at throwing baseballs. Who knew?

Verlander and Gray also set a new playoff standard.


Justin Verlander: Can we please put the dumb "Verlander doesn't pitch well in the post season" trope to rest? He deserved a far, far, far better fate than a no-decision. Seven shutout innings, 11 strikeouts, walked only one.

Don Kelly: For all the angst over Kelly getting the start, he was just fine. Until the ninth inning, the only player on either team with two hits was Kelly. The wizard also played solid defense in left field.


The TBS color analysts: Dennis Eckersley and Buck Martinez NEVER. STOPPED. TALKING. Worse, their blathering was inane at best, unlistenable tripe at worst.

Austin Jackson: Doesn't get much worse than your lead off man earning a Golden Sombrero in a playoff game.

Torii Hunter, Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder, Victor Martinez: Combined with Jackson, the meat of Tigers' order was a God awful 1-for-20.

CB Bucknor: Think of it this way. MLB believes Bucknor deserves to work the post season and there are worse umpires than him. OH. MY GOD.


Total comments 2,094
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1 RedWingedLigerFan 142
2 Joaquin on Sunshine 135
3 FrogTownFan 129
4 stevenyc 97
5 SpartanHT 90
6 aarone46 81
7 Trout Jefferson 71
8 Emil Sitka 70
9 JWurm 67
10 Alex Baker 65


8 welcome to good burger obligatory
6 GVLaker09 Every kiss begins with 'K'
4 stevenyc [no title]


The Tigers took game one thanks to a big time performance by Max Scherzer, allowing just three hits and two runs, striking out 16 in seven innings. Scherzer ran away with the PotG poll, taking 92% of the vote.

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