DETROIT Jarrod Parker said he sent fellow starter Sonny Gray a text Sunday morning after the A's landed in Detroit. Parker asked Gray if he planned to swing by Comerica Park, despite the fact the A's opted not to work out on the American League Division Series off day after flying all night and landing around 6:30 a.m.
"He said, 'I wasn't planning on it,' " Parker said. "I said, 'No, you stay in bed all day. You can do whatever you want today.' "
Parker will take the ball for the A's when the series resumes today, tasked with following Gray's act in Game 2. The 23-year-old rookie threw eight shutout innings to help the A's split the first two games against the Tigers at home and avoid a daunting 2-0 hole by winning a game in which Detroit started Justin Verlander, who overpowered the A's twice in last year's ALDS.
Not that the A's fared much better against Verlander this time the right-hander threw seven scoreless innings with 11 strikeouts a night after Max Scherzer struck out 11 while giving up just a two-run homer to Yoenis Cespedes in seven innings.
But while the more heralded front end of the Detroit rotation has certainly lived up to its reputation so far, the A's pitching staff has been just as stingy. Since the Tigers' three-run first inning against Bartolo Colon in Game 1 of the series, the A's have not allowed a run over the last 17 innings to a lineup that ranked second in baseball in scoring this season.
"Most of that's a credit to Oakland's pitching," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said Sunday. "And we've done a good job as well with them. They've been two fantastic games."
It likely doesn't get much easier for the two lineups today. Parker was arguably the A's most consistent starter during a 19-start unbeaten streak in which he allowed more than three runs only once. And the Tigers' Game 3 starter, right-hander Anibal Sanchez, had the lowest ERA in the American League at 2.57.
"Any other team, he's a top-of-the-rotation guy," A's manager Bob Melvin said of Sanchez.
The shortage of runs has already pressed both managers to employ strategies somewhat out of the ordinary for them.
With runners on first and second and no outs in the fifth inning of Game 2, Melvin elected to have right fielder Josh Reddick attempt a sacrifice bunt against Verlander something Reddick executed once all season and twice in his career. Reddick popped out, and the A's did not score.
Leyland, meanwhile, put a runner in motion twice in the same inning Saturday once on a hit-and-run, once in a full-count situation with runners on the corners despite Detroit stealing the fewest bases in baseball during the regular season.
The latter play, designed to keep the Tigers out of a potential double play, backfired when Austin Jackson struck out and Stephen Vogt threw out Jose Iglesias trying to steal to end the inning.
In another attempt to generate more offense, Leyland said he'll have Jhonny Peralta in the Tigers' lineup today in left field. Peralta hit .303 this year but missed 50 games late in the season because of a suspension and has not played in the ALDS.
Peralta, who has played mostly shortstop, is a defensive downgrade, but Leyland said, "There comes a point where you say, well, you might have to give up something to get something."
Leyland said he hopes it will have a similar effect to Melvin inserting Seth Smith into the A's lineup for Game 2.
Smith had two hits, including a ninth-inning single that helped set up Vogt's walk-off hit. Melvin said he wasn't sure if he'll alter his lineup today.
Parker, meanwhile, returns to the site of his first career playoff start in last year's ALDS, when as a rookie he lost a 3-1 decision to Verlander. Parker said he expects that experience and watching Gray dissect the Detroit lineup Saturday night to benefit him today, though he dismissed the idea that the Tigers who ended the season by getting swept in Miami while scoring three runs in three games are reeling.
"You always expect that offense to be good," Parker said. "There's a reason that they've been good all year."