OAKLAND -- A's manager Bob Melvin said he went to bed early last night "just to make sure I got a few hours" before his team's winner-take-all ALDS game today against Justin Verlander and the Detroit Tigers. It was about 9 p.m., he said, and by that time he had a pretty good idea of the lineup he'd run out against Verlander today, which features a few changes from Game 4.
The main change: Alberto Callaspo, not Eric Sogard, will start at second base. Callaspo had an impressive at-bat against Max Scherzer in the eighth inning of Game 4 -- missing a double down the left-field line by about a foot and eventually lining out to center -- and Melvin said "all his at-bats in this series have been good."
"What you try to weigh is whether or not you need to get him four at-bats or if you want to try to pick a spot for him," Melvin said. "And in this particular game it came down to getting him multiple at-bats."
Melvin gave a similar reason for batting Yoenis Cespedes fourth today, Seth Smith fifth and Brandon Moss sixth -- "Particularly in Game 5, you're looking to try to get your best lineup, your hottest hitters, up there as many times as you can."
Here's the full A's lineup:
And the Tigers' lineup against rookie right-hander Sonny Gray:
* Melvin went a little further into the decision to start Gray tonight over Bartolo Colon. He said several people looked at "variables" such as pitching style, recent history and matchups with the Tigers' hitters before he and general manager Billy Beane sat down to make the final decision. He reiterated: "This one came down to the way Sonny's been pitching and certainly his last start."
* Melvin was not ready to say whether Colon or Jarrod Parker will be available in relief tonight. He didn't explicitly rule out Colon, but he sounded very hesitant about the possibility of using Colon, citing the strict way Colon has to prepare for starts.
"He's 40 years old," Melvin said. "I don't know that I put him in a great position if I do that."
Parker, meanwhile, was going to play catch during batting practice and afterward give the A's a better idea of his availability tonight. Melvin said "if all feels good" Parker would probably throw briefly off a mound before the final decision is made, "But not really sure with him yet."
* A.J. Griffin was also throwing on the field this afternoon, and it sounds like he'll be an option for the A's in the A.L. Championship Series against Boston if they advance.
"I think he's really made some strides here and feels good about potentially being there when we need him," Melvin said. "I can't say anything for sure right now, but based on what he's accomplished during the season, a healthy A.J. Griffin is quite a nice piece to have."
That's especially the case if the A's move on and decide Parker can't make his next start. Other options to fill in for Parker would be Tommy Milone and Brett Anderson, though Anderson hasn't really been stretched out to a starter's pitch count.
* Not surprisingly, Melvin said that Sonny Gray arrived at the park today "bouncing around like he normally does."
"Nothing that we've thrown at him since he's been in the big leagues has bothered him," Melvin said. "That's one of the reasons we feel he's capable of doing this."
The A's turn to Gray hoping to reverse a bunch of recent trends in the playoffs and, in particular, potential clinching games. The A's have lost 11 of their last 12 potential postseason clinchers. The one win in that stretch was Game 3 of the 2006 ALDS. Prior to that, it was Game 4 of the 1990 ALCS.
Over the last 14 years, when facing elimination, the A's are 3-6. In their history they're 4-6 in winner-take-all games, but they've lost each of their last five -- the division series in 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2012.
The last time the A's won a winner-take-all game was the 1973 World Series.
They can erase a lot of frustration tonight. Verlander and the Tigers are standing in their way for the second year in a row. First pitch at 5:07 p.m.
"Exciting day right?" Melvin said.
-- Matt Kawahara