Parker has just enough in tank for Game 3 win
Bullpen picks up young A's righty, who calls early hook 'right move'
DETROIT -- If A's fans were wondering why manager Bob Melvin yanked starter Jarrod Parker on Monday after only five innings and 73 pitches in Game 3 of their American League Division Series, wonder no more.
Melvin said after Parker earned the 6-3 victory over the Tigers -- and the A's took a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five series -- that the 24-year-old right-hander was a little sore and it was time to go to the bullpen.
"He just wasn't feeling right," Melvin responded to a quick question before leaving his office at Comerica Park.
That may explain why Parker has had some problems in three of his last four starts, dating back to Sept. 16. It may also explain why Parker said he didn't lobby to remain in the game. Parker had blown a 3-0 lead as the Tigers tied it in the fourth.
The A's came right back in the top of the fifth to make it 6-3 on homers from Brandon Moss and Seth Smith, the latter a two-run job. Parker pitched an incident-free bottom of the fifth and that was it. Melvin went to the bullpen. Dan Otero, Sean Doolittle and Grant Balfour finished the game with four scoreless innings. Really, the Tigers never threatened again.
Was Parker surprised to come out after five innings?
"No, not really," he said. "It was the right move. It was a good time for it. Dan was big and he did a great job. Our 'pen has been doing it all year. It was one of those things that if it works out, it's great."
So, no discussion?
"No discussion," he said. "It was pretty one-sided."
Melvin and the A's baseball people have been pretty deft at arranging the rotation for this series. And Melvin has a great touch when it comes to managing his bullpen.
So far, the A's have been right on the money, getting eight innings of shutout, four-hit ball from rookie Sonny Gray in a 1-0 Game 2 victory in Oakland on Saturday night. On Monday, they were able to get just enough out of Parker, who allowed only one baserunner -- a Miguel Cabrera single -- in the first three innings before running into trouble in the fourth. And Dan Straily is slated to try to lock up the series in Game 4 on Tuesday at 2 p.m. PT on TBS at Comerica Park.
In Monday's fourth inning, an RBI double from Victor Martinez and Jhonny Peralta's two-run single accounted for all the runs.
"We've obviously been pitching really well, our starters keeping us in the game," Melvin said. "In Jarrod's case, maybe he was pitching to the score of the game a little bit today, but the bullpen came in and shut it down."
Parker seemed perplexed by the comment.
"I don't know what he means," Parker said. "You have to ask Bob. You have to ask him."
Parker had a tough first seven weeks. But that morphed into a nine-game winning streak and a 19-start unbeaten streak, the longest in Oakland history and the longest by an A's pitcher since the legendary Lefty Grove had a 21-start streak without a loss for the Philadelphia A's in 1931.
But the season ended much the way it began. The streak was snapped with a 12-1 loss to the Angels at O.co Coliseum on Sept. 16. Heading into Monday's game, Parker was 1-2 in his last three starts, allowing 15 earned runs and 16 hits in 14 2/3 innings. Now, make it 18 runs on 21 hits in his last 19 2/3 innings. Hardly auspicious.
It's a long season. Parker has already survived Tommy John ligament replacement surgery when he was in the D-backs system, and that's one of the reasons Arizona general manager Kevin Towers traded him to the A's in a deal for Trevor Cahill two offseasons ago.
Since then, Parker has made 61 starts, including 32 this year, plus three more in the postseason. All told, he's thrown almost 400 innings. That's a lot of wear and tear. But Monday's fourth inning was just one of those things, he said.
"There was a couple of pitches that could go -- foul ball, four ball, popout," he said. "Instead, they just put them in play. It was just one of those things where you try not to beat yourself up. You've just got to stay positive and know that they were good pitches and you just keep doing it."
The Tigers have only scored in two of the 27 innings in this series. They plated three against Bartolo Colon in the first inning of Game 1 on Friday night and held on for a 3-2 win. A string of 20 consecutive scoreless ended Monday with the three Detroit scored against Parker.
The A's bullpen has been flawless. As a unit, it hasn't allowed a run in eight innings and has been touched for only two hits.
"Parker, that was all you can ask for," said Balfour, who pitched a ninth inning that included a little verbal skirmish with Martinez. "He was solid. For the bullpen, it was all about getting outs. One at a time. Sooner or later, they're going to run out of them."
Parker had enough in his arm to get the first 15. And then Melvin, full well knowing the score, didn't hesitate to pull him out.
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.