Athletics walk off victorious after hard-fought pitcher’s duel in Game 2 of ALDS

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The Tigers and Athletics played what could very well end up being the best game of the entire post-season tonight as starters Justin Verlander and Sonny Gray took the hill in opposition. The two right-handers traded zeroes through seven innings, each allowing just four hits, each walking two or fewer, each striking out at least nine. As Katie Sharp noted on Twitter, tonight was the first game in post-season history in which both pitchers shut out their opponents and struck out at least nine.

Gray was able to pitch through the eighth inning, escaping a sticky situation with the speedy Don Kelly on second base with one out. The 23-year-old relied on his curve to strike out Austin Jackson for the fourth time in as many at-bats, then got Torii Hunter to pop out. From there, it was a battle of the bullpens.

Verlander made it through seven, throwing 117 pitches in total, striking out 11 while walking just one. He was able to ramp it up to 98 MPH in his final inning, adding some extra velocity when he needed it most. On any other night, he would have walked away with a W, but Gray was his equal.

After Drew Smyly and Al Alburquerque teamed up for a scoreless eighth, Tigers manager Jim Leyland left Alburquerque in for the bottom of the ninth. Yoenis Cespedes led off with a single to left field, past a rangeless Miguel Cabrera. Seth Smith followed up with a single to right field, allowing Cespedes to advance to third base with no outs. Leyland called for Josh Reddick to be intentionally walked, setting up a force at every base, then replaced Alburquerque with Rick Porcello — a move that will likely be second-guessed as closer Joaquin Benoit, ostensibly the team’s best reliever, remained in the bullpen waiting for a save situation. Catcher Stephen Vogt, 0-for-3 with three strikeouts to that point, laced a 93 MPH fastball from Porcello into left field, scoring Cespedes for a walk-off single.

With the 1-0 victory, the Athletics tie the ALDS at 1-1 and will now head to Detroit for two games. Athletics starter Jarrod Parker will oppose Tigers starter Anibal Sanchez on Monday.

Yoenis Cespedes: “I’m going to play the last year of my career with Oakland”

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Yoenis Cespedes told Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle that he wants to finish his career with the Athletics, according to an exclusive interview released on Friday. The Mets’ 31-year-old outfielder praised Oakland manager Bob Melvin, telling Slusser, “I don’t think there’s a better manager than Melvin” and adding that while he didn’t know if a return to Oakland would be possible, his love for the city had not faded.

Melvin, for his part, said he wasn’t surprised that the slugger wants another go-round with his first major league club, even if only as a final hurrah. Cespedes hit well over two and a half seasons with the A’s, compiling a cumulative .262/.318/.470 batting line from 2012 to 2014 and enjoying two postseason runs with the club before he was traded for Jon Lester and Jonny Gomes in 2014.

There’s been relatively little for Cespedes to complain about since his departure from Oakland, of course: he turned in a career-best performance in 2015, slashing .291/.328/.542 with 35 home runs and 6.7 fWAR in back-to-back gigs with the Tigers and Mets, and netted a whopping three-year, $75 million contract prior to the 2016 season. Still, there’s something special about the A’s, as the slugger relayed to teammate Jerry Blevins:

I told Blevins, ‘I don’t know how many years I’m going to play, but I’m going to play the last year of my career with Oakland.’ I don’t know if that’s possible or not, but that’s my goal.

Whether or not Cespedes gets his wish, it’s unlikely he’ll pursue any kind of deal with the A’s for the time being. He’s still owed $23.75 million in 2017 and 2018 and isn’t scheduled to hit free agency until 2019.

Brewers sell Michael Choice’s contract to the Nexen Heroes

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The Brewers offloaded outfielder Michael Choice’s contract to the Nexen Heroes of the Korea Baseball Organization, per a team announcement on Friday. Choice signed a minor league deal with the Brewers in early May, but did not earn a major league stint in 11 weeks with the team.

It’s been two full years since the 27-year-old outfielder snagged a big league opportunity of any kind. He last appeared with the Rangers in 2015 and played in just one game, striking out in his only at-bat. His production rate sagged through three consecutive minor league assignments with the Indians, Orioles and Brewers and peaked in 2016 after slashing .246/.304/.456 with 14 home runs for the Indians’ Triple-A Columbus. He was off to a decent start this season for the Brewers’ Double-A Biloxi, working a .272/.349/.503 batting line with nine home runs and an .852 OPS through his first 195 PA.

Choice is poised to join several other ex-major leaguers on the Heroes’ roster, including left-hander Andy Van Hekken, right-hander Jake Brigham and infielder/outfielder Danny Dorn.

6:43 PM: Danny Dorn no longer plays for the Nexen Heroes, as he was released to clear roster space for Choice.