OAKLAND -- The A's are counting on a rookie to take down the Tigers in Thursday's decisive Game 5 of the American League Division Series, with 23-year-old Sonny Gray getting the nod over veteran Bartolo Colon.
Oakland manager Bob Melvin announced the decision on a conference call Wednesday afternoon, less than 24 hours after his club suffered an 8-6 loss in Detroit to force Game 5 at 5 p.m. PT on TBS.
"Obviously we had two great options there with Bartolo," Melvin said. "We looked at it a bunch of different angles, we have a lot of smart people in our front office and baseball operations, and the short of it is, it came down to Sonny's last game that he pitched in similar conditions in our ballpark."
Gray will go up against Detroit right-hander Justin Verlander, who in Game 5 vs. the A's last year put the Tigers on his back with a complete-game, 11-strikeout effort that sent Detroit to the AL Championship Series. He also pitched seven shutout innings in Game 2 on Saturday.
But Gray did Verlander one better, compiling eight scoreless innings in Oakland's Game 2 victory. He allowed four hits, with only one leaving the infield, and walked two in the affair, which marked just the 11th start of his big league career.
Oakland's 2011 first-round Draft pick has a 1.85 ERA over his last seven outings, and his ability to continue this trend could help the A's buck a depressing one. The club enters Thursday's contest 1-11 in potential clinch games since 1990.
Colon, 40, lost to Detroit in Game 1, but followed a three-run first with five scoreless innings. He hasn't won a game against the Tigers since 2003, going 0-8 in 14 starts for three different teams in that span.
Should the A's advance to the ALCS, which begins in Boston on Saturday, Colon would likely start Game 1 against the Red Sox.