DETROIT – Jarrod Parker will encounter quite the challenging environment Monday when he takes the mound at Comerica Park.
It will be loud and it will be hostile. But it won’t be unfamiliar.
The Oakland A’s right-hander made his first postseason start in this same ballpark last year in Game 1 of the American League Division Series. He pitched admirably in a 3-1 defeat to the Tigers, giving up three runs (two earned) over 6 1/3 innings.
[GAME 2 RECAP: Gray dominates, A's walk off]
Parker, 24, returns to the scene this year for Monday’s Game 3 of the ALDS. The A’s and Tigers have split the first two of this best-of-five series, which so far has been characterized by outstanding pitching. The teams have combined for just six runs and 25 hits over 18 innings, and the A’s have held the Tigers scoreless over the last 17 of those innings.
The bar is set high for Parker as he matches up against right-hander Anibal Sanchez, who led the AL with a 2.57 ERA. But Parker says he’s equipped to handle it based on last year’s playoff experience. He also pitched Game 5 in Oakland and allowed four runs over 6 1/3 innings in a 6-0 loss in which the A’s were dominated by Justin Verlander.
“I think making two postseason starts last year is definitely a benefit this year,” Parker said Sunday. “I’m going to be able to settle in and slow things down right away. It’s not going to be so foreign.”
But there is the issue of Parker’s recent body of work. In two of his last three regular-season starts, Parker lasted just 4 1/3 innings and was charged with seven earned runs. After his final start in Seattle on Sept. 28, Parker said a long rest before pitching in the ALDS would be welcomed.
He’ll take the mound Monday on eight days’ rest, double the normal amount during the regular season.
“I feel good,” Parker said. “Any time you can get some extra days at this point in the year, it’s a positive thing for your body. It gives you a little extra time to iron out a few things and get mound work.”
Pitching in Detroit carries special meaning for Parker. He grew up in Fort Wayne, Indiana, less than a three-hour drive from Detroit. Although Parker was a White Sox fan, his family made a couple baseball trips to the Motor City – both to Comerica Park and the old Tigers Stadium.
“Postseason with the Cardinals was here – Scott Rolen,” Parker said, in reference to the 2006 World Series. “It’s Fort Wayne … Detroit, Chicago, you’re kind of in the middle.”
Oakland has been held to three runs in this series, and the struggles of the top four hitters in its lineup is a major reason. Coco Crisp, Jed Lowrie, Josh Donaldson and Brandon Moss are a combined 2 for 27 so far.
Moss, who led the A’s with 30 home runs in the regular season, has struck out six times in his eight plate appearances.
One player who has found a groove is fifth hitter Yoenis Cespedes. He’s 4 for 8 and has two of the A’s three extra-base hits in the series, with a triple and two-run homer in Game 1.
“He does like the spotlight,” manager Bob Melvin said. “… He embraces it. And I think once the postseason started after what was a little bit of a difficult year for him, not only numbers-wise but injury-wise, this is like a fresh start for him.”
Sonny Gray’s Game 2 pitching performance was still the buzz Sunday after the rookie threw eight shutout innings in Saturday’s 1-0 Oakland victory.
“I can’t put into words how great he was yesterday and how fun that is to watch,” Parker said. “For him, in that moment – it’s Sonny. He’s smiling, he’s having fun, and he’s talking to me in the middle of the game. I’m proud of him and we’re glad for him.”
Melvin said he hadn’t decided on any potential lineup changes for Game 3. Tigers manager Jim Leyland announced that Jhonny Peralta will start in left field.
Groundskeepers covered the Comerica Park infield with tarp Sunday shortly before it began pouring rain at about 6 p.m. local time. Weather.com forecasts a few showers for Monday morning but for the rain to let up by around 10 a.m. (ET). First pitch is set for 1:07 p.m., with temperatures expected in the high 50s.
If Game 3 happened to be rained out, it’s expected that it would be played Tuesday. Game 4 would be Wednesday (a scheduled day off) with Game 5 (if necessary) Thursday at the Coliseum.