OAKLAND — 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 Thursday night after he pitched a four-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. You can't treat it just like another game. It's a little bit different. There is more to it."
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 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." He hasn't been ruled out as a reliever.
"Obviously we had two great options," Melvin said.
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."