The Detroit Tigers have a payroll approaching $150 million this season for their veteran-laden roster, but it was two Oakland Athletics rookies who took them down in Game Two of the American League Division Series tonight.
The A's beat the Tigers, 1-0, behind catcher Sonny Gray's eight shutout innings and catcher Stephen Vogt's at-the-plate grittiness, and this ALDS is now tied at one game apiece as it heads to Detroit for Game Three on Monday.
Gray outlasted Justin Verlander, who threw seven shutout innings himself but left the game having thrown 117 pitches -- including ten against Vogt in the seventh inning during an at-bat that might have knocked the Detroit star out of the game.
Then, in the ninth, Vogt hit a bases-loaded, no-out single off reliever Rick Porcello to win the game for the A's.
But the storyline most people are going to remember from this game, across the nation and down the line especially if Oakland wins the series, is Gray: a rookie with limited major-league experience going toe-to-toe with the mighty Justin Verlander and holding his own readily and eagerly.
Gray's line was outstanding: eight innings, four hits allowed, two walks and nine strikeouts. He threw 111 pitches against a lineup loaded with veteran hitters.
With the sterling effort, Gray became the second pitcher in Athletics postseason history with at least eight scoreless innings pitched, nine strikeouts, and four or fewer hits (Chief Bender on October 10, 1905 at the New York Giants).
Verlander was his usual self, of course: seven innings, two hits, one walk and 11 strikeouts. But with Vogt's long at-bat in the seventh knocking him out of the game an inning earlier than Gray, people are going to remember the rookie's toughness for a long time -- while expecting big things out of him now every time he takes the mound.
People should also remember this piece of history from Game Two at the O.Co Coliseum tonight: the 48,292 in attendance saw the first matchup in MLB postseason history where both starting pitchers struck out at least nine batters each while not allowing a run.
It was that kind of special night in Oakland, and A's fans really hope they'll get to see more October baseball like it next week.