What do you call a post-season battle that lasts 3 hours and 23 minutes, chalks up 22 strikeouts with only one total run in a walk-off win? A nail biter.
That’s exactly what 48,292 fans jamming O.Co saw tonight. A game that started as a pitcher’s duel between 23 year-old rookie Sonny Gray and veteran, Cy Young award winner and MVP in 2011, Justin Verlander, ended in a 1-0 walk-off Oakland win. Call it a David vs. Goliath match-up in front of a National audience who likely thought “Sonny Gray” was a weather forecast. Any misperception of Gray has likely changed as he has shown that he can pitch against the best in the most challenging of situations. Not only did Gray’s performance prove his mettle, it also put to rest any question of Bob Melvin‘s brilliance in starting an unseasoned hurler in a critical post-season battle.
Both Gray and Verlander ran into some trouble in the fifth inning. With first and third occupied and one out, Gray struck out Austin Jackson, before Stephen Vogt threw out Jose Iglesias stealing second base. The inning ended and Gray didn’t look back.
In the bottom of the fifth inning, Verlander would walk-off the mound unscathed after retiring three consecutive batters with men on first and second and no outs.
Gray and Verlander were the obvious stars of the night. Wicked stuff was on display by both the rookie and the veteran. Personally, I would prefer a game with some runs over tonight’s pitcher’s duel. But this one had post-season tension from start to finish, and in a display of grace from the baseball gods, neither Gray nor Verlander emerged a winning or losing pitcher.
Starting a pressure-packed second game of the ALDS, a must-win for Oakland, Gray appeared poised and in control, giving up only four hits, two walks, while striking out nine batters through eight innings. Verlander was Verlander tonight. He struck out 11 A’s through seven innings, yielding four hits and no runs.