The Oakland A's are going with the kid.
As manager Bob Melvin explained to Jane Lee of MLB.com on the decision to opt for Sonny Gray over Bartolo Colon:
Melvin on Gray: "He's a bit of a bulldog. He's scared of nothing. You know, he, right away, established what he wanted to do in that game."— Jane Lee (@JaneMLB) October 9, 2013
The rookie turned in a dominant performance in Game 2 as he worked eight scoreless innings. Ultimately, as Melvin told Lee, it was that impressive outing that earned the 2011 first-round pick the nod.
However, as Guy Haberman of 95.7 FM The Game noted, that remarkable debut could actually play against Gray:
One thing I wonder abt is how much it matters that Colon has more experience facing a lineup that just faced him. @timkawakami— Guy Haberman (@GuyHaberman) October 9, 2013
Gray has only made 10 regular-season starts, and in that limited time he's never faced the same team in back-to-back outings, so it's difficult to know how the Tigers' dangerous lineup will adjust to seeing Gray for the second time in less than a week.
For Melvin, it's a bold move. However, it's hard to say that choosing Gray, who had a 1.99 ERA in six regular season starts at the O.co Coliseum, is the wrong decision.
Then again, picking the 40-year-old Colon wouldn't have been a mistake either. The right-hander won his final four starts to end the season 18-6. One thing is for certain, with the team squaring off against Justin Verlander there will be no margin for error.
Gray has no choice but to rise to the occasion once again.
Here are four more players who will also need to step up if the A's are going to break the Game 5 curse:
4. Coco Crisp
ALDS Stats: .500 (7-for-14) with 2 doubles, 1 triple, 3 walks and 4 runs
The A's engine has been in top form during the ALDS.
As noted by A's Baseball Information Manager Mike Selleck, however, Crisp hasn't just been good in the first four games. The center fielder's play has been downright historic:
That's some impressive company for the 33-year-old veteran. The A's will once again need a big day from Crisp if the team is going to get to Verlander. The tall right-hander has gone 23 straight playoff innings since allowing a run to the A's.
Oakland's last player to cross the plate against Verlander? Crisp.
In Game 1 of the 2012 ALDS, Crisp redirected a 95 mph fastball into the seats just beyond the right field wall at Comerica Park. Watch out for the leadoff hitter to once again be aggressive as he faces off against the Tigers' veteran ace.
3. Josh Donaldson
ALDS Stats: .176 (3-for 17) with 0 extra-base hits and 0 RBI
Which A's player will make the biggest impact in Game 5?
The A's most consistent bat in the regular season has gone missing in the ALDS.
Admittedly, Donaldson is one of just two right-handed batters in the lineup who has had to match up with Detroit's powerful quartet of righties. After posting a .301/.384/.499 slash line and swatting 24 home runs, it's hard to get too frustrated over a four-game skid.
However, if Donaldson's bat remains silent for the entire ALDS, the narrative of his 2013 season will change drastically.
Nobody will forget about his breakout campaign. Fair or not, there will be a lot of questions as to just what happened to Donaldson in October.
Unsurprisingly, Melvin hasn't lost confidence with his third baseman as he fights through this little rut. The manager told Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle:
“It's just a matter of time before he breaks out and tomorrow would be a good day for that.”
If not tomorrow, Donaldson might have to wait a while.
2. Josh Reddick
ALDS Stats: .200 (3-for-15) with 1 double, 1 home run, and 1 RBI
The right fielder has endured a brutal year in 2013.
One year removed from clubbing 32 home runs, Reddick finished 2013 with just 12 long balls. The 26-year-old also didn't manage to pull his batting average over .200 until midway through June, while enduring two DL stints with an injured wrist.
It's only fitting that Reddick would be a central figure in the Game 4 debacle.
It would be quite the moment of redemption for the bearded right fielder, however, if he comes through in the clutch in Game 5. If Reddick can deliver a towering home run or even just a key opposite-field single it would go a long way in erasing the memories of his miserable 2013.
1. Yoenis Cespedes
ALDS Stats: .389 (7-for-18) with 1 double, 1 triple, 1 home run and 4 RBI
For the left fielder, it's not so much a matter of stepping up as just continuing to do what he's been doing.
There's no doubt that Cespedes loves the big stage. Back in July, he put on a show at Citi Field as he slugged his way to the Home Run Derby title. Now in 17 career postseason games he has posted a .351/.385/.541 slash line with two doubles, one triple, one home run and six RBI.
The second-year player has also hit safely in all nine playoffs games in which he has appeared. That's tied for third-best in A's playoff history according to Jeff Kirshman of MLB.com.
The A's will need Cespedes to continue his climb into the record books. Plus, as his two-run shot in Game 1 demonstrated, if Cespedes gets ahold of one, the Coliseum will erupt.