OAKLAND — Jarrett Parker was home in Virginia two weeks ago, having been passed over for a September call-up despite the fact that he was on the 40-man roster and the Giants were in need of healthy bodies.
Parker didn’t have any big plans after a long season that included a disappointing cameo with the Giants. He was going to spend time with his family, hang out with some friends. He wasn’t planning on playing winter ball, meaning his next swings would come at Scottsdale Stadium next spring.
Parker has guaranteed himself a spot in that spring clubhouse, and after one of the hottest stretches in franchise history, he has put himself in a position to compete for an Opening Day spot.
“He’s made a lot of noise since he’s been up here,” manager Bruce Bochy said Saturday. “He’s opened up a lot of eyes.”
Bochy’s eyes have watched players like Tony Gwynn and Barry Bonds, but after Parker hit three homers, including a go-ahead grand slam, in a 14-10 win over the A’s, Bochy said he has never seen a player have the kind of day Parker had.
“That’s the best offensive game I’ve ever seen,” he said. “It’s just an amazing day for this kid. To do what he did today, it really is amazing. The kid has been locked in since he came in. He makes it look so easy.”
Parker has six homers in 18 at-bats since his dad dropped him off at the airport on the way to work at the Pentagon two weeks ago. He has five in his last nine at-bats, and when he hit the first pitch from Ryan Dull deep to right in the eighth inning Saturday, he joined some impressive lists.
[INSTANT REPLAY: Parker hits three homers, Giants storm past A's]
He is the first Giant since Barry Bonds in 2004 to homer five times in nine at-bats. He is the first Giants rookie since Brandon Belt in 2011 to homer in three straight games. He is the first MLB rookie since Andrew McCutchen in 2009 to homer three times in a game. He is the first Giant since Pablo Sandoval in 2013 to hit three homers in a game.
Those are all well and good, but this fact blew Parker away: He is the first Giant to hit three homers and drive in seven runs since Willie Mays in 1961.
“That’s unbelievable. I’m speechless,” Parker said. “I can’t even respond to that. To be mentioned in that kind of company, it’s unbelievable.”
Parker is soaking in every second of his third stint in the big leagues, because he knows how fleeting these moments can be. He was called up with Matt Duffy last August 1, but while Duffy became a key bench piece on a title team, Parker was sent back down to Triple-A without having ever gotten into a game. When he came up briefly this June, Parker went 1 for 9 with five strikeouts. Coaches were disappointed with his passive approach, and Bochy went as far as to say publicly that Parker wasn’t big league ready.
Parker sat back, soaked it all in — and vowed to be different the next time he got the call. He didn’t know when he would get another chance, but he promised himself that he would be more aggressive the next time he took a big league field.
“I’m just letting it hang out on the line,” he said. “Earlier in the year when I was called up, I was hesitant.”
Parker homered on a first-pitch fastball in the seventh and the grand slam was also on a first-pitch heater. Three of his six homers have been on the first pitch and one came on a 1-0 count, but he has shown some versatility during this Bonds-like stretch. His 474 foot homer off Dull on Friday was on a full count, and his first homer Saturday came on a 2-2 fastball that Barry Zito left up after buckling Parker with a curveball.
In two games here in Oakland, Parker has homered off a righty and two lefties. He has homered to all three sections of the field and he has homered to the upper deck in center, which is considered just about off limits to hitters. He could be at eight homers right now, too. His double at AT&T Park would have been out of most parks, and A.J. Pollock reached over the fence to rob him of a blast on the last homestand.
“It’s an effortless swing,” Bochy said. “It’s got a different sound to it when he hits it. He looks like The Natural right now with the way he’s swinging the bat.”
Bochy also compared Parker to Bonds, saying that like the all-time home run leader, Parker’s fly balls always seem to just carry and carry until they’re deep into the seats. This all raises expectations, of course, and the Giants will have to look at all sides of the conversation when discussing Parker’s future role. He’s 26 already and struck out in 37 percent of his minor league at-bats this season, and at some point teams will adjust and stop throwing Parker so many fastballs. There will be a book on Parker, but the A’s are having trouble finding the right page. Asked how else the A’s can try and get Parker out, catcher Stephen Vogt said he doesn’t know what the answer is.
“I tried to get him to smile,” Vogt said. “That kid’s locked in. I tried to make jokes with him, tried to get him to laugh, tried to get him to smile when he has come up to hit. There’s no doing that right now. He’s hitting everything right now.”
Parker did finally crack a smile Saturday. He couldn’t help himself when he crossed the plate and saw a whole team -- including a giddy Tim Hudson -- pouring out of the dugout. If Parker stays hot through his next Cactus League season, he could be standing next to those veterans on Opening Day.
That’s a conversation for the offseason and March. On Saturday, after one of the best days a Giants hitter has ever had, Parker wasn’t worried about 2016. He was still trying to figure out how to sum up one of the last games of 2015.
“It was awesome,” he said, smiling. “It was awesome.”