DETROIT -- With Max Scherzer's relief outing in Tuesday's Game 4, Justin Verlander becomes the Tigers' starter in the winner-take-all Game 5 of the American League Division Series on Thursday night in Oakland.
"The season is on the line," Verlander said. "You can't treat it like just another game. You know it's a little bit different. There's more to it."
Athletics manager Bob Melvin didn't announce his Game 5 starter. He can use veteran right-hander Bartolo Colon, who lost Game 1 despite a quality start, or rookie right-hander Sonny Gray, who baffled the Tigers for eight innings in a scoreless Game 2 duel with Verlander. The A's won that game in the ninth against the bullpen.
If Scherzer hadn't relieved Tuesday night and the Tigers had won, then he would have started Game 5 and Verlander would have been available in relief. Manager Jim Leyland outlined those possible roles for the right-handers 4 hours before the first pitch of Game 4.
Verlander will start Thursday night on his normal four days' rest. That's one reason for the A's to be concerned. Here are others:
-- Citing the past two scoreless playoff starts in Oakland, Verlander said: "You know what to expect. I know what the crowd is going to be like. And it's going to be fun. It's what you play the game for. It's exciting.
-- "This is what you dream about as a kid -- be on the mound in that clinching game."
-- The first four Game 5 losses in the ALDS came in four straight years, 2000-03. Those outcomes are why those "Moneyball" A's with the strong starting pitching never played for the pennant in the AL Championship Series.
-- The division series was introduced in 1995, and the only time the A's have won one came in 2006, when they swept Torii Hunter and the Twins. Then they got swept by the Tigers in the ALCS.
In Game 3 on Monday, the A's became the first team ever to hit three homers against the Tigers in Detroit in a postseason game. According to research done through Baseball-Reference.com, the Tigers have hosted 54 postseason games.
^Jed Lowrie(AT) hit Oakland's lone homer Tuesday night. The A's hit 11 homers in their six games in Detroit this season, with at least one in each game. The A's have hit roughly one-sixth of all the homers the Tigers have allowed at Comerica Park this season.
All three A's homers Monday came off^ Anibal Sanchez,(AT) who led the AL not only in ERA, but in fewest homers allowed per innings pitched (one homer for every 20 innings). Sanchez became the first Tiger to allow three homers in a postseason game anywhere.
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