Sonny Gray of the Oakland Athletics throws a pitch in...

Sonny Gray of the Oakland Athletics throws a pitch in the first inning against the Detroit Tigers during Game 2 of the American League Division Series at Coliseum. (Oct. 5, 2013) Credit: Getty Images

Haunted by the past, the A's contend they are thinking only of the present, Thursday night's deciding Game 5 of the American League Division Series against Detroit at Coliseum.

The A's, as many predicted, will start rookie Sonny Gray, 23, who pitched eight shutout innings in the second game of the series. Oakland skipped 40-year-old veteran Bartolo Colon.

"He's a bit of a bulldog, scared of nothing," said A's manager Bob Melvin of Gray when announcing his decision Wednesday. "The other game, right away he established what he wanted to do. Now it's the same venue, same team."

The Tigers will start Justin Verlander, who last year in virtually the exact situation -- same teams, the same 2-2 tie, same venue -- beat Oakland, 6-0.

That was the sixth time since 2000 the A's failed to advance in the ALDS, the fifth time they had lost in five -- two of those, 2000 and 2001 to the Yankees -- and the 10th time in 11 postseason games they were beaten in a deciding game.

It's been 40 years since the A's won in what was an elimination game for both teams, defeating the Mets in Game 7 of the 1973 World Series as Bert Campaneris and Reggie Jackson homered in a 5-2 Oakland win.

The 2001 ALDS may be the most painful. Oakland won the first two at Yankee Stadium. In Game 3 at the Coliseum, the A's Barry Zito allowed only one run. But the Yankees' Mike Mussina pitched a shutout, aided by a remarkable seventh-inning play by Derek Jeter.

Slow-footed Jeremy Giambi was on first. Terrence Long doubled, and Giambi should have scored. But bad baserunning and Jeter's alert pickup of an overthrown ball from the outfield (after he sprinted to the first-base line) and backhanded flip to Jorge Posada cut down Giambi at the plate.

The next year, 2002, the "Moneyball" year, Oakland dropped Games 4 and 5 of the ALDS to the Twins. Then in 2003, the A's were up 2-0 over the Red Sox. Pedro Martinez beat Zito, 4-3, in the fifth game.

GM Billy Beane, famed for creating winners on a small budget, was heard after that game to say, "If we had another $50,000, we would have won it."

What Melvin said in explaining his choice of Gray over Colon, who lost the opener of the series, 3-2, after giving up three runs in the first inning, was, "This is a win-or-go-home game. We're trying to do the best we can."

And for once win and not go home.

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