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.
Dodgers’ left fielder Andrew Toles crushed his first spring training home run on Saturday afternoon. With the bases loaded and a two-run deficit hanging over their heads in the fourth inning, Toles stepped up to the plate against Oakland right-hander Jesse Hahn and unloaded a grand slam on the second pitch he saw.
Third baseman Justin Turner was quick to follow up with a solo jack of his own, bringing the score to a comfortable 7-4 lead by the end of the fourth. Another three-run outburst in the fifth and an eighth-inning RBI single by Austin Barnes raised the final score to 11-6… which, coincidentally, was the same score the Reds used to defeat the Athletics’ second split-squad lineup on Saturday (albeit with a few more RBI walks than grand slams).
Toles, 24, is approaching his sophomore season with the Dodgers in 2017. He slashed .314/.365/.505 with three home runs and an .870 OPS in his first major league season in 2016 and is expected to platoon with the right-handed Franklin Gutierrez in left field this year.
David Price showed “strength improvements” in his elbow on Saturday, but Red Sox’ manager John Farrell still doesn’t think the left-hander will be ready to throw by the start of the season — or for a few weeks afterward. According to ESPN’s Scott Lauber, the 31-year-old might not be ready to debut until May at the earliest.
Price hasn’t thrown off of a mound this spring after experiencing soreness in his left elbow on March 1. Surgery doesn’t appear to be necessary, but the Red Sox are playing it extra safe with their No. 3 starter in hopes that rest and rehabilitation will return him to full health sometime during the 2017 season. For now, Price has been restricted to short games of catch until he’s cleared to resume a more rigorous throwing program. Via MLB.com’s Ian Browne:
[There were] strength improvements to the point of putting the ball back in his hand a little more consistently,” said manager John Farrell. “Today’s the first step for that. A short game of catch. That’s what he’s going through. Not off a mound but just to get the arm moving with a ball in flight, and he will continue in this phase for a period of time. There’s no set distance and volume yet to the throws.
The lefty is coming off of a lackluster 2016 season, during which he delivered a 3.99 ERA, 2.0 BB/9 and 8.9 SO/9 over 230 innings for the Red Sox.