Detroit — In the first two games of the American League Division Series, the A’s pitchers have looked almost superhuman, holding Tigers hitters scoreless for 17 straight innings.
The three runs off Bartolo Colon in the first inning of Game 1 represents the only offense the Tigers have mustered in getting a split in the two games in Oakland.
The A’s Game 3 starter, Jarrod Parker, hasn’t fared nearly as well in his four outings against the Tigers — who are looking to shake off their hitting woes in Monday’s pivotal game.
Parker is 0-4 with a 6.79 ERA in four games against the Tigers, including two losses in last season’s ALDS, when Parker took the loss in Games 1 and 5. He pitched 61⁄3 innings in each of those games, allowing two earned runs in Game 1 and four in the deciding game — noted for Justin Verlander’s masterful shutout pitching.
In April, Parker faced the Tigers in Oakland, lasting only 31⁄3 innings, giving up eight earned runs on nine hits.
He’s looking to flip the script on his prior bad outings and use some of what he saw in the first two games, by Colon and rookie Sonny Gray, to give him some guidance.
“I think it’s something where we’ll sit down and pick parts of both those guys and the way they attacked and the way they pitched to put into my game plan and kind of individualize it a little bit to my strengths,” Parker said Sunday.
Parker marveled at the shutout streak the A’s staff has going but knows the Tigers are capable of breaking out of their doldrums at any point in the series.
“You always expect that offense to be good. There’s a reason that they’ve been good all year. You don’t go into the game expecting them not to be who they are,” he said. “So you just try to pitch to your strength and stay within yourself and pitch your game, and they’re going to handle their stuff. And it’s just baseball.”
Parker, a Fort Wayne, Ind. native, said he grew up watching the Tigers, making trips both to Tiger Stadium and to Comerica Park.
“We came here a couple times — went to the old stadium and went to the new stadium — so I’ve definitely come here for baseball,” said Parker, who guessed he was about 10 for those trips. “With Fort Wayne, it’s Detroit and Chicago — you’re kind of in the middle.”
With the way the A’s played during their series against the Tigers in August — winning three of four in convincing fashion — there were some suggestions that maybe the A’s were stealing the Tigers’ signs.
A’s manager Bob Melvin laid those rumors to rest — humorously — in Sunday’s news conference.
“I wish we were stealing signs,” Melvin joked. “You get to second base and when you get a lot of guys out there — you know, I’m always aware of it, too — you’re watching third-base coaches. You’re watching first-base coaches.
“Any time there’s a number of guys on second base, you have the ability to steal some signs. But it didn’t happen in that series.”
The A’s outscored the Tigers, 34-20, in that series and would have had a rare four-game sweep, if not for a winning home run by Torii Hunter in the ninth inning of the finale.
“We just had our best offensive series of the year. Against these guys, you wouldn’t have expected that. But we just had a lot of momentum once we score a bunch of runs the first game,” Melvin said. “We were getting pitch counts up, getting into the bullpen. A little different dynamic than what we’re looking at right now.”
For A’s catcher Stephen Vogt, who had the winning hit in Game 2, there wasn’t a lot of time to enjoy his big moment.
After Sunday’s early-morning flight to Detroit, he’s been trying to bottle the emotion of the big hit that kept Oakland in the series.
“When they brought in (Rick) Porcello, I was anxious, I was happy,” Vogt said. “Going through my head it was just, ‘I can’t wait for this opportunity; this is going to be great.’ ”
For Vogt, it was his only hit in seven at-bats in the series, but it ranked among the top accomplishments in his career.
“Baseball-wise, no. Maybe my first hit in the big leagues,” Vogt said, “but this blew that out of the water for sure.”