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Must C Cespedes: Cespedes leaps to make great grab

SEATTLE -- The A's felt plenty of satisfaction in wiping away a five-game losing streak by way of a 4-3 win over the Mariners at Safeco Field to climb back to .500 on Saturday evening. But not as much as they did in welcoming back Jarrod Parker.

The right-hander had been out of sorts all season, his ERA through seven starts at 7.34 following a remarkable 2012 rookie campaign that resulted in a 3.47 mark -- a downfall that could partially be attributed to a neck strain that forced Parker out of his last outing prematurely.

The A's didn't believe the injury to be serious enough for a disabled-list stint, so they sent Parker back out to the mound on Saturday, ultimately witnessing flashes of his 2012 brilliance while also getting solo shots from Josh Donaldson, Daric Barton and Brandon Moss.

"I think Jarrod has the capability and the potential to be a front-line guy," said Donaldson. "He just has to let his stuff work for him and really get ahead of guys, and he did that for the most part tonight."

Parker was far from perfect, as he issued a season-high four walks, yet his neck was of no concern and he proved unhittable for much of the night, allowing three runs on just three hits while tying a season high with 6 1/3 innings. His efforts led to just his second win of a previously ugly season.

His velocity was up from the start, one of many encouraging trends noted by manager Bob Melvin.

"Better rhythm," Melvin said. "His timing seemed to be a lot better, not rushed at times. Good command of his fastball early on, and he wasn't afraid to throw it for strikes.

"We want to get him on a roll. One good start is one thing, but we'd like to see him get on a roll. Losing a few in a row, that was the type of performance we needed from him."

Said Parker: "That was definitely smoother and a little more free and easy with the delivery, and how my neck felt was a lot better today, a little closer to normal."

Before Saturday, the righty had given up 28 earned runs on 50 hits, including eight homers, in 34 1/3 innings. Of the 28 runs, 16 came in the first three innings, but Parker faced the minimum during that span on Saturday.

He didn't allow a hit until two outs into the fifth inning, when Kelly Shoppach cut into Oakland's three-run lead with a two-run home run on a full count. The Mariners tagged him for two more hits with one out in the seventh, leading to Parker's departure in favor of lefty Sean Doolittle, who surrendered an RBI single to Dustin Ackley -- marking the first time this season he's allowed an inherited runner to score.

But Doolittle responded by picking up two outs to preserve Oakland's lead, one it had since the second when Donaldson launched a one-out homer off righty Brandon Maurer, his fifth of the season. Seattle's starter gave up another homer in the fourth, this time to Barton on a full count, and was also responsible for a fifth-inning RBI single off the bat of Jed Lowrie, who finished with three hits.

Yoenis Cespedes went 0-for-4, and he's now hitless in his last 15 at-bats. But no one really cared on Saturday, since he might have saved a run when he robbed Kyle Seager of extra bases with a tremendous catch at the center-field wall with one out in the sixth.

"Awesome," said Parker. "I think he's an incredible athlete. It's almost like it doesn't surprise you, because everything he does is so smooth. It was fun to watch. I think he was the only one in the ballpark who knew he had caught the ball at that point."

"Remarkable," added Donaldson. "When I saw that catch I turned into a little kid, a fan. It was awesome."

Oakland's relievers showcased a flare for the dramatic, stranding seven runners in the final three innings, with closer Grant Balfour leaving two on base to end the ninth for his sixth save of the season. He has now converted each of his last 24 save opportunities dating back to last year.

But "it all starts with our starters," according to Melvin.

"They set the tone for the game," he said. "[Parker] did that today, and our bullpen comes in and keeps it that way. That's how we won a lot of our games last year. When you're not swinging the bat well, that's how you have to win."

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