A’s tab Gray to start Game 5

OAKLAND — The A’s are counting on a rookie to take down the Tigers in Thursday’s decisive Game 5 of the American League Division Series, with 23-year-old Sonny Gray getting the nod over veteran Bartolo Colon.

Oakland manager Bob Melvin announced the decision on a conference call Wednesday afternoon, less than 24 hours after his club suffered an 8-6 loss in Detroit to force Game 5.

Gray will go up against Detroit right-hander Justin Verlander, who in Game 5 vs. the A’s last year put the Tigers on his back with a complete-game, 11-strikeout effort that sent Detroit to the AL Championship Series. He also pitched seven shutout innings in Game 2 on Saturday.

But Gray did Verlander one better, compiling eight scoreless innings in Oakland’s Game 2 victory. He allowed four hits, with only one leaving the infield, and walked two in the affair, which marked just the 11th start of his big league career.

Oakland’s 2011 first-round Draft pick has a 1.85 ERA over his last seven outings, and his ability to continue such an impressive trend could help the A’s buck a depressing one. The club enters Thursday’s contest 1-11 in potential clinch games since 1990.

Colon, 40, lost to Detroit in Game 1, but followed a three-run first with five scoreless innings. He hasn’t won a game against the Tigers since 2003, going 0-8 in 14 starts for three different teams in that span.

Should the A’s advance to the ALCS, which begins in Boston on Saturday, Colon would likely start Game 1 against the Red Sox.

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