By George Devine, Sr.
The A’s and Tigers have both undertaken the return trip to Oakland for the final and decisive game of the ALDS, after the series was tied by Detroit’s 8-6 win over the Athletics at Comerica Field on Tuesday. The fifth game will begin at 5:07 p.m. PDT, simultaneous with an event at neighboring Oracle Arena and a few hours before a BART strike deadline, as rush-hour traffic clogs the Nimitz Freeway alongside the venue. In other words, for A’s personnel and fans, it will be home, sweet home, and that may be just what Oakland needs to win.
Due to Thursday night’s concert at Oracle Arena, A’s fans who purchased tickets to Game 5 of the American League Division Series at O.co Coliseum are strongly encouraged to arrive early or take public transportation to the ballpark.
All lots are expected to fill very early as various parking spaces will be reserved for the concert at Oracle Arena. Parking will be $25 for cars until lots are full or 6 p.m., space permitting, when it will change to the concert price of $35. Direct parking will be in effect to maximize the use of available parking spaces.
Parking will open Thursday at noon. Stadium gates will be open at 3 p.m.
1989 World Series Most Valuable Player Dave Stewart will throw out the ceremonial first pitch on Thursday before the deciding game. Stewart was 21-9 with a 3.32 ERA in 36 starts with the A’s during their championship season in 1989 and was named an AL All-Star. It was the third of four consecutive seasons in which he won 20 games or more. He was 2-0 with a shutout and 1.69 ERA in two starts against the Giants in the 1989 World Series. In his career, Stewart was 168-129 with a 3.95 ERA in 16 Major League seasons with the Dodgers, Rangers, Phillies, A’s and Blue Jays. A native of Oakland, Calif., he finished in the top five in the AL Cy Young voting four times (1987-90), led the league in complete games and innings pitched twice (1988, 1990) and wins once (1987).
But the larger question is: who will be the starting pitchers for the Tigers and Athletics? In the visitors’ case, the decision was made early on: Justin Verlander, who pitched seven scoreless innings in Game 2, and won last year’s Game 5. His being chosen seemed a foregone conclusion once fellow starter Max Scherzer appeared in relief for two innings, earning the win in Tuesday’s Game 4. For the Athletics, two choices were considered: Bartolo Colon and Sonny Gray, until it was announced late Wednesday that Gray would be the starter.
Gray, who has come upon the Tigers as an unknown quantity, posted a 5-3 record and 2.67 ERA in 14 games (12 starts) during the regular season, pitched eight shutout innings in Game 2 last Saturday. He received a no-decision in Oakland’s 1-0 win over the Tigers, striking out nine batters, walking two and allowing only four hits.
The 24-year-old Nashville, Tenn. native was selected by the Athletics in the first round of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft out of Vanderbilt University.