OAKLAND — The Oakland Athletics find themselves in a very familiar position — it's Game 5 of the ALDS at O.Co Coliseum, they're facing the Detroit Tigers and Justin Verlander will be on the mound.
The last time this happened — 364 days ago in the 2012 ALDS — Verlander and the Tigers blanked the A's. The score was 6-0, Verlander pitched a complete game and struck out 11. The Tigers advanced to the ALCS and, eventually, the World Series.
Safe to say, the people here in Oakland are hoping for a different outcome. At least one group of A's fans decided the way to bring about that change was to create giant Kate Uptons. Specifically, big ol' replications of her head.
Why? Well, Upton used to (maybe) date Verlander. We've seen the home fans try to get into the heads of opposing pitchers this season, but this is a little more crafty than chanting a pitcher's name. The owners of the Upton heads positioned themselves well during the pregame — right behind the Tigers bullpen as he warmed up.
Verlander probably won't see the Upton faces during the game. Unless the fans who made them go rogue and figure out a way to get behind home plate. But this is Oakland we're talking about. You never know.
Other fans have different ideas about why 2013 will be different than 2012. In the coliseum parking lot, people already had their grills fired up and their beers old five hours before game time. One guy sat in the bed of a truck in his bright yellow A's jersey.
"The difference between this year and last year," he said, with a long dramatic pause to impress his buddies. "Sonny Gray."
Indeed, the A's didn't have their 23-year-old Game 5 starter a year ago. The A's will need him to be just as good as he was in Game 2 — when he out-dueled Verlander, pitching eight innings, striking out 9 and not allowing a run.
Sonny Gray, Kate Upton heads. Trying to make it to their first ALCS since 2006, the A's and their fans will take either if they bring a deliver in Game 5.
BLS H/N: Casey Pratt at CSN Bay Area