OAKLAND – There was no Oakland-era precedent for what Jarrod Parker did last year, when the A's right-hander won 13 games as a rookie and started the opening game of the playoffs.
Now, that is the precedent for Parker individually, and so far this season, he has not looked like the same pitcher.
In his first three starts, Parker has pitched 112/3 innings and has an ERA of 10.80. The Detroit Tigers jumped on him for a career-high eight runs in the A's 10-1 loss Sunday at O.co Coliseum, knocking Parker out of the game in the fourth inning after he allowed nine hits – also a career high – for the second consecutive start.
Parker had just one start all of last season where he didn't reach the fifth inning. Manager Bob Melvin said the right-hander will make his next start, scheduled for Saturday at Tampa Bay, while admitting Parker's early struggles are "a bit puzzling."
"He went to attack the strike zone (Sunday), he did, and maybe he caught a little more plate than he wants to against a good fastball-hitting team, who's hitting well right now," Melvin said. "And he got hit."
Of the 22 Tigers hitters Parker faced, 12 reached base on nine hits, two walks and a high fastball that hit Prince Fielder on the elbow. Detroit leadoffhitter Austin Jackson had three hits off Parker. Jackson singled to start the game – he promptly scored when Torii Hunter followed with a double – and hit a two-run home run in the second inning.
Down 4-0, Parker threw a 1-2-3 third inning and retired the first batter in the fourth. But he then allowed four consecutive hits, including a Hunter double that bounced out of the glove of center fielder Chris Young, a two-run single by Miguel Cabrera and an RBI double by Fielder that ended Parker's day.
Parker said he struggled with fastball command. He was mostly around the plate, but the Tigers pounced on fastballs, including several that Parker left up in the strike zone.
It didn't help, Parker said, that he "didn't have much off-speed (Sunday)." He struck out two and now has eight walks and four strikeouts on the season.
"He is a strikeout guy," Melvin said. "So something's going on right now. He just needs to work on it."
That, Parker agreed, is all he can do.
"I'm just a tick away, I feel like," he said. "It's something where I've just got to keep working hard and not dwell too much on what's done.
"I'm obviously upset and I'm not happy with what's going on and what happened (Sunday). But I think if we can move on and continue working and staying together, just basically go out there and play the game moving on."
Parker said he feels "good" physically, a year removed from throwing 2142/3 innings in Triple A and the majors, by far the highest total of his career. His fastball was in the 91-94-mph range, and he threw 45 of 76 pitches for strikes.
He wasn't working with much support. The A's had three hits, scoring their lone run on Derek Norris' sacrifice fly in the fourth inning, and struck out eight times against Tigers starter Anibal Sanchez.
After striking out 57 times in their first 10 games, the A's, who led the majors in the category last season, struck out 38 times in three games against Detroit. That included 13 times in Saturday's 7-3 loss.
Norris, who has caught Parker's last two starts, said he thinks the 24-year-old has been "unlucky" and "just needs a couple breaks to go his way, and he'll get his confidence back, his swagger back."
"Just because he's had a couple bad starts, next time he comes out, I'm not going to doubt him," Norris said. "I'm going to expect a guy that will come out and no-hit somebody, because he's got that kind of stuff. He just needs a couple breaks to go his way."