A week ago, nobody would've believed you if you'd told them that Sonny Gray, a 23-year-old who's made 11 starts at the Major League level, would be getting the ball in the decisive game of a playoff series.
Obviously, a lot has changed in the last five days. Gray put himself in prime position to start tomorrow night after he turned in one of the most impressive playoff performances A's fans have ever seen from anyone, let alone a rookie, in Game 2. He thoroughly demolished Detroit's lineup, allowing four hits and two walks in eight innings of scoreless work. Moreover, he allowed three infield hits, meaning, essentially, that the Tigers made solid contact with the ball once all evening.
Bob Melvin stated in a conference call that he's not entirely "comfortable with (Bartolo's) routine," casting doubt on whether the veteran righty is available out of the bullpen for tomorrow night. He's referring to Colon's routine as a starter, of course, and is essentially saying that he's not confident in Colon's ability to succeed without his going through his meticulous set of pregame warmups and traditions. Still, if Gray struggles early on, it's a good bet we'll see Colon. But Melvin being reluctant to use him out of the bullpen for a short stretch in the late innings, like Jim Leyland's use of Max Scherzer last night, is understandable.
Melvin also said that Colon's availability for the potential opening game of the ALCS did not play into his decision — it's a do-or-die situation, and he's right in thinking that planning for a round the A's have yet to reach isn't helpful in either the short or the long term. Translation: he thinks Sonny Gray puts the A's in a better position to win tomorrow night's game.
It'll be interesting to see how Detroit's lineup adapts to Gray, as the Tigers will seeing him for the second time in five days. In particular, they had trouble with his curveball on Saturday night, at times flailing at it miserably and at times being frozen by it as they watched it drop into the top of the strike zone. It's a fantastic hook, no doubt, but it's easy to envision them knowing what's coming and being more prepared the second time around.
Like Saturday, Gray will have the support of a boisterous crowd — Game 5 is almost sold out, and despite the early start time, the Coliseum should be packed and rocking.
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