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Verlander gets ball for Game 5 against A’s again PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, October 10, 2013 12:27 AM

By JANIE McCAULEY

Associated Press

 

OAKLAND, Calif. — It’s Justin Verlander and Sonny Gray, the encore.

These decisive Game 5s sure are becoming familiar for Verlander. Not so much for the Oakland rookie.

Just like last October in Oakland, the Tigers have been pushed to a winner-take-all fifth game in their AL division series against the Athletics. And Detroit will have Verlander on the mound again tonight after he pitched a 4-hit shutout in the 2012 clincher at the Oakland Coliseum.

“Well, you don’t pretend. It’s not just another game,” Verlander said after the Tigers evened the series with an 8-6 win Tuesday at Comerica Park. “The season is on the line. It was on the line for us tonight, too. This whole season, the way we battled and played as a team, comes down to one game; may the best team win.”

The A’s will counter with Gray against Verlander a second time after these two put on a pitching show Saturday night at the Coliseum.

“He’s a little bit of a bulldog, he’s scared of nothing,” manager Bob Melvin said, noting Gray’s experience on the big stage just last week. “Everything that went on in that game factored into it. … When he came up, we were into the season and a pennant race already and we threw him right into the fire and right away he pitched very well with a lot of confidence and always has that mound presence.”

Melvin added he doesn’t know how he might use, if at all, 18-game winner and Game 1 loser Bartolo Colon, who is “willing to do anything.”

Verlander dominated in a thrilling pitcher’s duel with Gray, who matched the ace as each threw zeros but had nothing to show for it in a 1-0 A’s win.

“I’m not really sure we liked what we saw; it was pretty good,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said of Gray. “At least we’ve seen him now.”

Verlander is riding a 22-inning postseason scoreless streak against the A’s and has 33 strikeouts over the past three playoff matchups with Oakland, 11 in each outing.

Verlander acknowledged it would have been great to pitch the playoff opener, while also noting 21-game winner Max Scherzer more than earned the nod. Now, Verlander gets the ball for his most meaningful start this year — to extend the season tonight.

With Scherzer pitching in relief Tuesday, Verlander became the automatic Game 5 choice for manager Jim Leyland.

Who to start was quite a choice for 2012 AL Manager of the Year Melvin, whose team is trying to avoid having the season end at the hands of Detroit for the third time in as many postseasons — last year and also a 4-game sweep by the Tigers in the 2006 AL championship series.

The last time the A’s won a winner-take-all postseason game was in Game 7 of the 1973 World Series against the New York Mets. Oakland has lost its last five Game 5s in the AL division series since 2000.

The AL West champion A’s know what’s at stake — and realize full well the challenge of facing Verlander again. Last fall’s frustrating finish is still fresh for everybody.

Verlander has hardly had the kind of dominant season like he had the past two years, including 2011 when he won both AL MVP and Cy Young Award honors. Yet that hardly affected Leyland’s decision-making as he insisted Verlander’s 13-12 record was hardly indicative of how well he pitched much of the season aside from a couple of rough stretches.

Oakland expects 48,000-plus fans with their swirling yellow rally towels to pack the Coliseum. They are sure to be even more hyped up and fiery tonight after watching a disputed home run at Comerica Park in Tuesday’s loss. On that play, a pair of fans reached out to grab the ball as rightfielder Josh Reddick was leaping for it at the wall. The homer went to replay review and stood as a solo shot for Victor Martinez in the seventh.

 

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