These decisive Game 5s sure are becoming familiar for Justin Verlander.
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 A’s. And Detroit will have Verlander on the mound again tonight after he pitched a four-hit shutout in the 2012 clincher.
“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. … This whole season, the way we battled and played as a team, comes down to one game, may the best team win. You can’t treat it just like another game.”
The A’s will counter with rookie Sonny Gray against Verlander again after they put on a pitching show Saturday night at the O.co 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 Saturday.
Melvin said 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.”
“I’m not really sure how I’m going to handle that yet,” Melvin said.
Verlander dominated in a thrilling pitcher’s duel with Gray, though he had nothing to show for it in a 1-0 loss.
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.
Not that the A’s are counting.
“He’s been beaten before, it can happen again,” third baseman Josh Donaldson said.
Both clubs chose to use Wednesday as a full day off without on-field workouts after two long flights in four days.
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 four-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.
“Going to go out there like we always do,” leadoff hitter and center fielder Coco Crisp said. “[Verlander’s] a great competitor and we’re a competitive team. We’re going out there to go out and beat him.”