OAKLAND -- The A's and manager Bob Melvin opted to go with the hot hand for Game 5 of the ALDS against the Tigers. Melvin said on a conference call today that Sonny Gray (pictured) will start Thursday night against the Tigers' Justin Verlander, tabbing the rookie for the winner-take-all game over veteran and 18-game winner Bartolo Colon.
"Obviously we had two great options there with Bartolo and we looked at it a bunch of different angles," Melvin said. "Really the short of it is it came down to Sonny's last game that he pitched in similar conditions in our ballpark."
Gray went toe-to-toe with Verlander in Game 2 of the series, throwing eight scoreless innings to keep the A's in a game they eventually won on Stephen Vogt's walk-off single in the ninth. Melvin said it was Gray's performance and demeanor in that game in a high-pressure situation and in front of a raucous crowd -- in just his 11th major-league start -- that was the chief reason for going with Gray over Colon.
Colon allowed three runs in a six-inning outing in Game 1, all in the first inning. Melvin said Colon, who led the A's in wins during the season with the second-best ERA in the American League, "has done nothing not to warrant pitching in this game."
Melvin said he isn't sure if Colon will be available in relief because Colon has a unique routine before starts that might not be conducive to a relief appearance. But he didn't rule Colon out for Game 5 and said Colon is "open for everything."
"This is a win-or-go-home game and we're trying to do the best we can," Melvin said. "If we feel there's an incremental edge with one guy over another that's what we're going to have to do."
Melvin said Colon took the decision well, and that Gray was "excited" and "looked awfully confident, had a big smile on his face" when informed he'd be starting Game 5.
"He's a bit of a bulldog," Melvin said. "He's scared of nothing."
As for his Game 5 lineup, Melvin said the only change he'd consider would be starting Alberto Callaspo at second base over Eric Sogard, but added he likes having the switch-hitting Callaspo on the bench for late-game situations.
PHOTO: Sonny Gray delivers a pitch during Game 2 of the ALDS, in which he threw eight scoreless innings. Jose Luis Villegas/Sacramento Bee.