Parker shows grit vs. Tigers in postseason debut
Rookie impresses in series-opening duel against Verlander
DETROIT -- Because of a double-play grounder, a booted squibbler back to the mound, and a homer by Tigers catcher Alex Avila, A's rookie right-hander Jarrod Parker wound up on the wrong end of Saturday night's 3-1 loss to Justin Verlander in Game 1 of their American League Division Series at Comerica Park.Verlander dominated by whiffing 11 and allowing only three hits, including a game-opening Coco Crisp homer. And though some of the A's hitters seemed annoyed by the generous strike zone from home-plate umpire Jim Reynolds, Parker wasn't complaining about his end of it. "I don't know, I haven't looked at [the video]," Parker said after the Tigers took a 1-0 lead in the best-of-five series, which continues at 9 a.m. PT Sunday on MLB Network. "I'm not going to [complain] about the strike zone. I'm not going to complain about anything that is out of my control." What was within in his control was all this: Making the first postseason start of his short career, Parker allowed only three runs (two earned) on seven hits, while walking one, striking out five and hitting a batter before coming out with runners on first and second and one out in the seventh.
He didn't have great command, he said, but battled against the elements and a Tigers team that has won the AL Central two years in a row and played its 12th postseason game during the past two autumns. The Tigers have now won six of those 12 games.Asked about the atmosphere as 43,323 mostly Bengals faithful cheered every Tiger move, Parker said: "Cold!" Game-time temperature was a brisk 49 degrees. But really: "No, it was all right," he said. "It's the hometown, home team. They got a lot of support. We battled and did what we could. I was just trying to keep the ball down. I didn't have my best stuff today. I was trying to keep them off balance." A's catcher Derek Norris, though, said Parker shouldn't have been so hard on himself. "I don't know what was going on in his head," he said. "It could have been the jitters. It could have been the cold weather. I'm not sure what happened. But I wouldn't take anything away from him. I thought he threw the ball real well." Staked to a 1-0 lead on the Crisp homer, Parker came out in the bottom of the first and gave it right back. Shortstop Stephen Drew dove to deflect Austin Jackson's leadoff double toward the 5.5 hole, turning what would have been a single into a double. When third baseman Josh Donaldson knocked down Quintin Berry's shot down the line, holding it to an infield single, Jackson held at third. He then scored on Miguel Cabrera's double-play grounder to Drew. In the third inning with Omar Infante on second and two out, Berry tapped a grounder to the right of the mound that Parker tried to field as he cut the ball off before it could reach first baseman Brandon Moss. "The play was pretty much the only one I had," Parker said. "I tried to scoop it and beat Berry to the base. I just flipped it out of my glove and wasn't able to control it." The ball bounced past first and Infante scored on what was deemed a single and an error. Just like that, the Tigers had scored twice on four grounders and without the aid of an RBI. Their only RBI came when Avila opened up the fifth with a homer to left-center. "It was a sinker that didn't sink," Parker said about that pitch. "It was up in the zone. I supplied the power. He just touched it and it went out of the park." The A's had a chance to get to Verlander early, stranding six runners in the first five innings, but the right-hander became stronger, whiffing five in a row at one point as the A's struck out 14 times in the game against three Detroit pitchers. Verlander left having tossed 121 pitches over seven innings. "You have to get to Verlander early and nick him up," Parker said. "We got his pitch count up pretty high, but he kept at it." Oddly enough, Parker and two A's relievers stymied the Triple Crown-winning Cabrera and Prince Fielder -- Detroit's three-four hitters -- with an 0-7 collar. Avila and Infante -- the eighth and ninth hitters -- were 3-for-6 with a double, homer, two runs scored and the RBI. How do you figure it? "Those two guys aren't the only ones who produced for them all year," Norris said. "One through nine they have players who can produce. Obviously, you don't want their two super stars to wind up with the headlines and multi-homer games, but when it came down to it, the other guys just came up clutch. Sometimes it happens."
Barry M. Bloom is national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow@boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.