OAKLAND Sonny Gray said he exchanged texts Thursday night with fellow rookie right-hander Gerrit Cole of the Pittsburgh Pirates, whom he got to know in college when Gray was at Vanderbilt and Cole at UCLA.
Cole was about to make his playoff debut against the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Division Series a success, with Cole throwing six innings of one-run baseball Friday to help Pittsburgh even that series at 1-1.
Gray will start Game 2 of the ALDS tonight against the Detroit Tigers.
"He kind of shot me a text and was like, man, this is weird, huh?" Gray said. "We're both throwing in the playoffs, and a year and a half ago we were facing each other in college.
"I was like, yeah, it's weird."
Gray, 23, has made 10 major-league starts and is 5-3 with a 2.85 ERA. Asked to name the biggest game he has pitched in prior to tonight, Gray cited the opening game of the 2011 College World Series, when he started for Vanderbilt against North Carolina in the Commodores' 7-3 win.
"It was an exciting day," Gray said. "And I'm sure (today is) going to be exciting and there will be adrenaline going just try to harness that and use it to my advantage."
Gray's performance since his late-July debut has teammates and manager Bob Melvin confident he won't be overwhelmed by the circumstances.
"He's been in some high-profile places and pitched in some high-profile games," Melvin said. "You insulate in your preparation and go out and pitch whether you're an emotional guy or not, which he can be, and I think it actually helps him. We think he'll do well."
Melvin said when he told Gray this week that he'd be starting Game 2, "It was like, 'All right, let's go.' He looked like he was ready to pitch Game 2 right then."
Gray allowed two or fewer runs in five of his six starts at O.co Coliseum during the regular season, one reason Melvin opted to start him tonight and Jarrod Parker in Game 3 in Detroit. Gray also brings an element of the unknown because he didn't pitch against the Tigers this season, which Detroit manager Jim Leyland said Friday is "the problem with Sonny Gray."
"We don't know much about him other than what we've seen on TV, and it looks pretty darn good, and what our scouts have told us, which is that it's pretty darn good," Leyland said. "A little anxious when you see somebody you haven't seen before. We'll have to wait and see what it looks like live."
MLB announced that Game 3 of the series in Detroit will begin at 10:07 a.m. Monday, while Games 4 and 5, if necessary, will start at 2:07 p.m. and 6:07 p.m. Game 5, which would be in Oakland on Thursday, could move up an hour if the other A.L. series is already decided.
Bartolo Colon, at 40 years and 133 days, became the oldest pitcher in Oakland history to start a playoff game. Previously, it was Bob Welch, who was 35 years and 343 days when he started Game 4 of the 1992 A.L. Championship Series.
Former A's outfielder Dave Henderson threw out the first pitch before Friday's game. The A's said Welch, another member of the 1989 World Series team, will throw out the first pitch tonight.
Call The Bee's Matt Kawahara, (916) 321-1015, and read his online reports at blogs.sacbee.com/bay-area-baseball.