SEATTLE – For most of September, Oakland A’s manager Bob Melvin has remained mum on any talk of the postseason or potential matchups.
With his team’s playoff agenda finalized Saturday, Melvin opened up about an American League Division Series rematch with the Detroit Tigers.
The topic brought a smile to his face in his postgame media address. This despite a 7-5 loss to the Seattle Mariners and despite starting pitcher Jarrod Parker struggling mightily for the second time in three starts.
[Instant Replay: Parker rocked by Mariners]
“It makes for good fun,” Melvin said of facing the Tigers. “It was a good matchup last year. We had some spirited games this year. It should be an exciting series. It’s two pretty well-matched teams. A little different in styles, but you look at the numbers overall , their pitching numbers, their hitting numbers, and ours and what we do, it should be pretty evenly matched.”
The A’s lost to Detroit in last year’s ALDS, but before this year’s best-of-five tilt begins Friday in Oakland, there’s a four-day layoff following Sunday’s regular-season finale against the Mariners.
No one needs the rest more than Parker (12-8), who gave up seven runs in 4 1/3 innings Saturday and admitted he is feeling the wear of a long season. He finished the regular season at 197 innings. As a rookie last season, he threw 202 innings, though a portion of those came in the minors.
He’ll get six days’ rest before his expected start in Game 2 – two days more than normal. Sometimes that layoff can be detrimental. For Parker, it seems timely. His stuff is often crisper when he’s pitched on extra rest.
The 24-year-old was asked Saturday how he was feeling physically.
“About like you’d expect,” he said. “It’s not an easy workload. It’s something I’m hopefully going to be able to do every year and get used to. Each and every year it’ll get a little easier. At this point I feel about like I should. At this point of the year, I think (the rest) is a blessing. I think all of us will get extra time and rest. It’s going to be good for us.”
Parker has lasted just 4 1/3 innings and given up seven earned runs in two of his past three outings. His Sept. 16 start against the Los Angeles Angels came on the heels of a stomach bug that caused him to be bumped back a day.
On Saturday, he was flat-out missing location. He allowed three home runs – two to Seattle leadoff hitter Brad Miller, including a grand slam that put the A’s in a 7-1 hole. That’s the most homers Parker surrendered since he allowed four May 6 at Cleveland.
Asked if he was concerned about his young right-hander, Melvin answered “no” emphatically.
“He’s had a couple off-games,” the manager said. “He just missed in the middle of the plate with some pitches and when he did, they didn’t miss them. Miller was hunting (fastballs). If he makes his pitch, maybe it’s off the barrel, but he throws it down the middle and he gets him a couple times. … His stuff is still good. I’m not worried about that.”
The A’s won the season series with the Tigers 4-3, dropping two of three in Oakland in April and taking three of four at Comerica Park in late August. That latter series was noteworthy for the manner in which the A’s hit the Tigers’ standout rotation.
Oakland faced AL ERA champ Anibal Sanchez, 2011 MVP and Cy Young winner Justin Verlander, 14-game winner Doug Fister and this year’s likely Cy Young winner in Max Scherzer. They hung losses on Verlander and Fister and got to Scherzer for five earned runs.
“We know how deep they are, how talented they are,” A’s first baseman/outfielder Brandon Moss said. “But we believe in ourselves a lot more this year. We’ve beaten a lot of really good pitchers. It’s one of the tougher matchups you can draw. But at the same time, if you can win that series you’re better prepared for the next series.”
The A’s lost the first two games of last year’s ALDS, then won two at home before being shut out by Verlander in Game 5. Losing the series was still eating at Melvin, he admitted, as he addressed reporters the morning after Game 5.
Perhaps that’s why he was smiling as he walked through the clubhouse after Saturday’s defeat. His team has been handed a shot at redemption.
“We know we have our work cut out for us,” Moss said, “and I think they know that as well.”
Sanchez finished his final regular-season start Saturday with a 2.57 ERA, so Bartolo Colon (2.65) will not be the A’s first ERA champ since Steve Ontiveros in 1994.