OAKLAND -- For a 23-year-old rookie who was riding a Minor League bus at the start of the season, going toe to toe with one of the game's most dominant pitchers isn't a bad way to end the year.Jarrod Parker departed Game 5 of the American League Division Series on Thursday night in the seventh inning with runners on first and third and his A's trailing, 2-0, walking off the Coliseum field with the sold-out crowd giving him a raucous standing ovation. But watching as the Tigers expanded their lead with four more runs in the inning, a visibly emotional Parker slumped in the dugout with a towel draped over his head. And after the A's were eliminated from the postseason with a 6-0 loss, Parker was able to reflect on an improbable and impressive rookie season that ended with two postseason pitching duels against Justin Verlander, a five-time All Star and reigning AL MVP and Cy Young Award winner.
"It was something I will cherish, and it was a great experience," Parker said. "Hopefully five, six years from now, somebody else will be saying that they have to go two games against Jarrod Parker."Parker's final pitching line -- four earned runs in 6 1/3 innings -- wasn't reflective of another strong outing in a high-stakes game from one of Oakland's many rookie surprises. "He's way beyond 23 years old," catcher Derek Norris said. "The stuff he has and the way he goes out there, you would have thought that he was in his late 20s or early 30s the way he pitches. It's so exciting that he's so young and he'll be around a long time for us." Thursday's finale was a reminiscent of the series opener, with a solid outing again being bested by a nearly unhittable Verlander. Verlander turned in a four-hit shutout in Game 5 after having held the A's to one run on three hits in seven innings in Game 1. "I'm not worrying about that a whole lot, and I'm just trying to pitch my game," Parker said of facing Verlander. "I knew I was going to have to be on at that point, when he's doing it and he's on. I was just hoping to stay with him by doing what I've done." In addition to opposing Verlander, Parker also had to face perhaps baseball's most fearsome 1-2 punch in Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder. The sluggers combined to go 0-for-11 against Parker in his two postseason outings. "You have to look to minimize the guys who are doing the most damage, and he's been able to do that," Norris said. "You have to have the other guys beat you, and that's what happened tonight." Parker used a fastball-changeup combination to keep the Tigers largely off balance, including a third inning in which he threw three straight fastballs to Cabrera to get a flyout to right field before striking out Fielder with three consecutive changeups. "At this point of the year, to be able to go out and do something like that, I still felt like I had a good outing," Parker said "We just battled -- we've done it all year and we battled tonight. We're not going to hang our heads on one loss."
Jay Lee is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.