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Lowell Cohn: Bob Melvin's trust in Sonny Gray pays off with A's win

  • Oakland A's starting pitcher Sonny Gray throws a pitch during Game 2 of the ALDS against the Detroit Tigers on Saturday. (CHRISTOPHER CHUNG / The Press Democrat)

OAKLAND — There was a feeling of the inevitable to Game 2 — A's vs. Tigers. A feeling that Sonny Gray would throw zeroes until the end of time and Justin Verlander, as great as he is, could do no better than that.

There was a feeling that somehow the game was out there for the taking, that the Tigers would approach their give-it-up moment, and the A's would take advantage of it.

And that's exactly what happened.

Oakland A's vs. Detroit Tigers ALDS Game 2

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The A's were fighting to stay alive, nothing less. They embraced life because they trusted a 23-year-old rookie pitcher who came up to the majors six weeks ago and had only 10 starts this season. When you watch him work, who does he remind you of? Tim Lincecum, that's who — Lincecum when he was young and good and overpowering.

Before Saturday night, Gray's biggest claim to fame was pitching in the College World Series. Bob Melvin kept saying he trusted this game to Gray because of the College World Series.

Really?

The College World Series is not exactly the big leagues. Melvin said he started Gray in Game 2 because he wanted to give Gray the “comfortability” of pitching at home, comfortability being Melvin's word, and a very good word it is. Comfortability counted for plenty in this game.

It wasn't comfortable for anyone who played the game or watched it, every pitch meaning everything, every pitch and grounder and pop fly a desperate event that could change everything. Every inning except the last half inning ended with no runs. This game was all about the exquisite stress of postseason ball. And it is exquisite.

One moment in the top of the third showed so much about Gray. He brushed back Torii Hunter with a high inside fastball. The pitch went near Hunter's face but not that close. It's not like Hunter was in mortal danger, or even in danger of getting a wind burn. Plus Hunter leans over the plate daring a pitcher to conk him, and a leaner has to accept a certain amount of pitches that buzz his puss.

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