With ALDS tied, righty starts in Detroit for second straight postseason
Barry M. Bloom
DETROIT -- A's right-hander Jarrod Parker has been there before: on the mound at Comerica Park, starting a crucial American League Division Series against the Tigers.
He lost Game 1 last year, 3-1, to Justin Verlander and is slated start Game 3 on Monday, airing at 10 a.m. PT on MLB Network, against Detroit right-hander Anibal Sanchez. Now he has a chance to give the A's the lead in the best-of-five series.
Parker also lost the decisive Game 5 to Verlander last year at O.co Coliseum.
"I think making two postseason starts last year is definitely a benefit for me this year," Parker said Sunday during an off-day news conference at Comerica Park. "I'm going to be able to settle in and slow things down right away. It's not going to be so foreign, I guess. It's just being there in it last year, it's one of those things where you pull from those things. You pull from the last two games, that atmosphere."
All that and more is why A's manager Bob Melvin opted to give Parker his only start this year in the first round on the road.
"We always feel good when he takes the mound," Melvin said. "He had a stretch second to none there for a while where he didn't lose in -- I don't know how many games it was -- broke a record here, I think.
"Then he had a couple of off starts -- for him -- two of his last three, I believe. That was not really a dropoff in what he does, so we always feel good when he takes the mound. That's why we targeted him for that first game in Detroit due to his experience as well, pitching there last year."
Parker had a nine-game winning streak and a 19-start unbeaten streak this season, the longest in Oakland history and the longest by an A's pitcher since Lefty Grove had a 21-start streak without a loss for the Philadelphia A's in 1931.
Key stat: Sanchez has been dominant in the postseason. He went 1-2 with a 1.77 ERA and 0.98 WHIP last year.
Key stat: Parker was riding a 19-game unbeaten streak until mid-September, holding a 9-0 record with a 2.61 ERA.
At Comerica Park (reg. season)
2013: 8-3, 2.70 ERA Career: 11-5, 2.92 ERA
2013: N/A Career: N/A
Against this opponent (reg. season)
2013: 1-0, 3.75 ERA Career: 1-1, 5.09 ERA
2013: 0-1, 21.60 ERA Career: 0-2, 10.00 ERA
Loves to face: Josh Reddick, 0-for-9, 2 K Hates to face:: Seth Smith, 7-for-19, 3 HR
Loves to face: Prince Fielder, 1-for-10, 2 K Hates to face:: Austin Jackson, 6-for-11, HR
Why he'll win: Sanchez led the AL with a 2.57 ERA and went 7-2 with a 2.20 ERA in the second half.
Why he'll win: Parker has pitched well on the road this season, posting a 3.74 ERA and striking out 64 in 86 2/3 innings.
Pitcher beware: Sanchez gave up four runs in five innings to the A's on Aug. 26, throwing 112 pitches.
Pitcher beware: Parker struggled at the end of the season, giving up at least seven runs in two of his last three starts.
Bottom line: Sanchez only allowed nine home runs this season, and will need to continue that trend against a powerful A's lineup.
Bottom line: Parker needs to find a good game plan against Detroit. He went 0-2 with a 4.26 ERA in last year's ALDS against the Tigers.
The streak ended most unceremoniously in a 12-1 loss to the Angels at O.co Coliseum on Sept. 16. That began the little slump Melvin was talking about. Parker was 1-2 in his last three starts, allowing 15 earned runs and 16 hits in 14 2/3 innings.
In his last start of the regular season, on Sept. 28 at Seattle, Parker allowed seven runs and seven hits in 4 1/3 innings, taking a 7-5 loss.
"It was just a couple of bad big innings, and those add up," he said. "And I didn't execute the pitches. I was up in the zone. My stuff was just not good. Then mix in a couple of walks. It just doesn't add up, but those kinds of starts can happen. And coming off a decent streak and you're not expecting it, it hits you in your mouth right away and you take it and move on."
The end of the season matched his April woes, when Parker opened 1-4 with a 7.36 ERA in his first six starts. It carried through May 21 with six losses in his first seven decisions. And then the 19-game run began May 28.
"Yeah, he had a tough first month," Melvin said. "He was getting in bad counts instead of good ones. He wasn't using his changeup effectively and his fastball command wasn't too good. He had a little bit of a neck strain that was bothering him earlier in the year, too. I think it was affecting him a little bit as far as his extension, but once he ironed that out he's been real consistent."
On Oct. 6, 2012, in Game 1 of the ALDS against the Tigers, Parker allowed three earned runs on seven hits, walking one and striking out five before being lifted with runners on first and third and one in the seventh inning. Alex Avila hit a homer off him to open the fifth. Verlander was better, allowing a run on three hits, while walking four and whiffing 11 in seven innings.
Five days later, Parker allowed four earned runs on seven hits and was pulled with one out as the Tigers blew open the game with a four-run seventh. Again, Verlander was much better, throwing a 6-0 shutout, while allowing four hits, walking one and again whiffing 11.
In his short, two-year career, Parker hasn't had much good fortune against the Tigers, also losing both his regular-season starts while allowing 10 earned runs on 15 hits for a 10.00 ERA. Both those losses came in Oakland.
All of that can be cast aside in the playoffs, Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. The Tigers haven't scored in 17 consecutive innings, dating back to a three-spot off Bartolo Colon in the first inning of a 3-2, Game 1 victory on Friday night. On Saturday, A's rookie right-hander Sonny Gray shut down the Tigers for eight innings on four hits and Detroit lost, 1-0. It was the first time the Tigers faced Gray.
"[Parker] is another guy with good stuff," Leyland said. "He commands the strike zone pretty good. At least we've seen him a little bit before. To me, you can throw everything into a hat because there's a reason teams are in the postseason and that's normally because they have good pitching.
"So you might as well make up your mind you're going to see a good pitcher every day you go out there. Parker is another one of the good pitchers in the American League. He's outstanding. He's another one of those guys that you're going to have to scratch and claw. If he's on his game he can make it real tough for you.[Dan Straily] is no different. They're going to put a good pitcher out there and so are we."