For the second time in less than a week, Justin Verlander and Jarrod Parker squared off in an American League Division Series contest. And once again, the reigning AL Cy Young and MVP bested and outlasted Parker and the Oakland A’s to move on to the ALCS.
Parker’s performance was comparable to that of Game 1 last Saturday, as he pitched well enough to keep the A’s in the game until the late innings. However, as was the case in that start, the 23-year-old’s mistakes were rare but costly.
With the season on the line, Parker had a strong start to the game, capturing the momentum by fanning the Detroit Tigers’ leadoff hitter, Austin Jackson. Similarly, he fanned Alex Avila on an excellent fading changeup to end the second and entered the third inning having thrown 20 of 24 overall pitches for strikes.
In the third inning, however, Parker yielded a leadoff single to Omar Infante on a 90-mph, hitting-speed fastball after falling behind with the first pitch. He struggled to rebound, as he followed the single with a wild pitch before surrendering an RBI double to Austin Jackson. Actually, the pitch, a 2-2 slider, was pretty good, but Jackson put a nice swing on it.
After a sacrifice bunt by Quintin Berry moved the runner to third, Parker subsequently allowed the run to score on his second wild pitch of the inning—another overthrown fastball.
The right-hander ultimately settled down and completed the first four innings with 48 pitches (36 for strikes). He kept the A’s in the game, as usual, scattering a hit and walk over the next two frames.
However, things fell apart in a hurry for Parker in the top of the seventh inning. It began when he fell behind Jhonny Peralta, 2-1, to lead off the inning, and the right-handed hitter singled through the left side on a grooved fastball.
After that, he began picking at the strike zone with his fastball, missing low repeatedly at one point. And as he did with Peralta, Parker fell behind Omar Infante, 3-1, before surrendering another single on an elevated fastball.
With runners at the corners, the A’s turned to another rookie, Ryan Cook, with one out in the seventh. The All-Star right-hander failed to retire the three batters he faced, as he allowed both a single and walk and hit Miguel Cabrera with a pitch.
Parker finished the game with four earned runs on seven hits over 6.1 innings. He also struck out six batters while issuing only one walk.
When the A’s came to bat in the bottom of the seventh, they now trailed the Tigers, 6-0, with Verlander smelling the finish line. And for the second time in the series, the right-hander carried his team on his back.
Given the expectations for the A’s headed into the season, what they ultimately accomplished is astounding. And with a roster composed of rookies like Parker, Cook, Yoenis Cespedes, Tommy Milone, A.J. Griffin, Josh Donaldson, Derek Norris and Sean Doolittle, who contributed down the stretch and in the postseason, the organization’s future is exceptionally bright.
To have a core group of young players—not just the aforementioned rookies—gain invaluable pennant-race and postseason experience so early in their respective careers should pay huge dividends for the A's in the years to come.
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