The 2012 Oakland Athletics went into the playoffs with a rookie rotation, and even though the team did not advance past the Division Series, those rookies acquitted themselves quite well in the spotlight.
Jarrod Parker took the ball in Game One and Game Five against Detroit and Justin Verlander last October. And while he didn't win either game, he certainly held his own against the best; the young A's righty gave up just two earned runs over 6 1/3 innings in Game One at Comerica Park in Detroit, and in Game Five at the O.co Coliseum, he entered the seventh inning having given up just two earned runs again.
Oakland lost both those games, but Parker's fortitude didn't go unnoticed — and it's one of the reasons Manager Bob Melvin chose to start Parker in Game Three at Comerica Park in this year's American League Division Series against the Tigers.
With the series tied at one game apiece, the A's need to win at least one game in Detroit over the next two to bring the series back to Oakland for a Game Five on Thursday, and Parker is a pretty good option for the team as he goes up against AL ERA champion Anibal Sanchez this morning.
Game time is 10:07 a.m. Pacific Time.
Parker's overall 2013 numbers don't scream "ace" — he was 12-8 with a 3.97 ERA this year — but from May 23 to September 15, he didn't lose a game. That stretch of 19 straight starts without a loss was quite dominant: Parker was 7-0 in the months of June, July and August with a 2.57 ERA.
He is certainly capable, and Oakland will need Parker at his best to take Game Three on the road.
Pitching has been the dominant theme of this series, so even a great performance from Parker will require his teammates to score some runs in support.
The A's only have 11 hits in the two games of this series so far, and scoring just three runs total isn't going to win that many games. Of course, the same can be said for the Detroit Tigers and their offensive woes, but as the road team, Oakland is going to have a little more pressure on them to steal back home-field advantage in the series.
Yoenis Cespedes is the only A's hitter really stroking the ball well right now: he's hitting .500 in the series, notching four hits in eight at-bats, including the two-run home run he hit off Max Scherzer in Game One to provide all the Oakland runs in that contest.
Seth Smith had a good game on Saturday night, going 2-for-4, but no one else on the A's roster has more than one hit so far in this ALDS. For a team that has relied on a different guy stepping up every time out there, the Oakland organization needs hitters like Coco Crisp, Josh Donaldson, Brandon Moss and Josh Reddick to deliver some big hits in the next few games.
Stephen Vogt was the guy who stepped up on Saturday night, of course, delivering a bases-loaded, no-out single after Cespedes and Smith singled to start the inning and Reddick was intentionally walked.
But it was the A's first hit in 11 at-bats this series with a runner in scoring position, and that will need to improve during the rest of this series if Oakland wants to support Parker and the rest of the pitchers with the runs they deserve.
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