DETROIT -- One likely heated topic of conversation among the brass on the A's flight home from Motown to Oakland was deciding whom to start in Game 5 of the playoffs Thursday.

It's an elimination game, pure and simple, so you want your best available pitcher to throw. Detroit will. The Tigers are going with former Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander.

Do the A's counter with rookie Sonny Gray? It looks increasingly like they might.

When asked after Tuesday's 8-6 loss who would start Game 5, A's manager Bob Melvin said, "I haven't decided yet.'' Asked a few minutes later, Melvin said, "We haven't decided anything yet.''

All along the A's have said that 18-game winner Bartolo Colon would get that start, but Colon has a checkered past with the Tigers. He hasn't won a game in 10 years against the Tigers (0-8 in 14 starts and one relief appearance, including the loss in Game 1), although his team has gone on to win some of those starts.

That Game 1 was by a 3-2 count in which he gave up three runs in the first inning and nothing thereafter. There have been a handful of other games during that stretch where he's pitched well and taken a loss.

But 10 years is 10 years. That's a major dollop of history.

The only history Gray has with the Tigers is last Saturday's game, an eight-inning, four-hit, no-run performance that set up a walk-off ninth-inning 1-0 win. Do the A's dare try for a repeat? Games like that don't come along every day, even for the best.

Melvin, in having Gray pitch Game 2 against the Tigers in Oakland rather than in Game 3 in Comerica Park, made a case for how Gray has pitched well in big games in the Coliseum, which Gray then supported with his eight shutout innings.

The A's players, to a man, said they were comfortable with the choice, whichever way it goes.

"Bartolo has been our rock,'' reliever Brett Anderson said. "And Sonny has been on a nice roll.''

Rock and roll. You've got to like that choice, whichever way it goes.

  • The A's scored six runs Tuesday.

    It was the runs they didn't score that haunted them.

    They put the leadoff man on base in each of the first three innings but scored only once against Detroit starter Doug Fister. Josh Reddick was stranded at second base after a fourth-inning double.

    But the eighth inning, when Oakland was trailing 5-4 and batting with the bases loaded with no one out, was the one that hurt.

    Max Scherzer worked the count full to Reddick and threw a simply inhumane changeup that Reddick swung through.

    "That pitch was nasty,'' Brandon Moss said from his vantage point at third base. "There was nothing anybody was going to do with that pitch."

    Tigers right fielder Torii Hunter talked about the Scherzer performance as if it were a symphony.

    "This game today was probably one of the best games I've ever played (in),'' Hunter said. "To watch Scherzer mow some guys down with the bases loaded, it gave me so much energy and so much excitement.

    "It pumped the team up. I've gotta commend Scherzer for doing that for us.''

    Scherzer said pitching in relief was new, but the same, too.

    "I came in today, we played catch, and I told (manager Jim Leyland) I had a couple of innings in me,'' Scherzer said. "I was wild tonight. I didn't have my best command, but when it counted in full counts, I was able to execute some seven pitches, and that's what allowed me to be successful.''

  • Sean Doolittle gave up the tying run on a disputed fly ball and the go-ahead run on an uncatchable-by-inches single.

    The A's lefty reliever gave up three hits and two runs and said he wouldn't change a pitch.

    "The pitches were where I wanted them to be,'' Doolittle said. "There wasn't a sequence I would change.'

    "I thought Josh (Reddick) was going to catch Victor Martinez's homer. When he didn't, I thought it was probably because of fan interference. The go-ahead hit by (Austin) Jackson, I destroyed his bat, but he got enough of it to get it over the infield.

    "They say this is a game of inches. That (seventh) inning was what they meant.''

    For more on the A's, see John Hickey's Insider at blogs.ibabuzz.com/athletics. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/JHickey3.