Saturday afternoon in Oakland was scripted as a nostalgic farewell to Tim Hudson and Barry Zito, two outgoing veteran pitchers pitted against each other in the city where their careers began.
Then Jarrett Parker upstaged it all.
With Zito and Hudson out of the game by the third inning, Parker, the Giants’ rookie outfielder, hit three home runs including a tiebreaking grand slam in the eighth inning, as the Giants beat the A’s 14-10 at O.co Coliseum to avoid postseason elimination for at least one more day.
Parker, a shaggy-haired 26-year-old from Virginia, became the first San Francisco Giants rookie to hit three homers in a game and the first Giant with at least three homers and seven RBIs in one game since Willie Mays’ four-homer game in April 1961. Parker is the first major-league rookie with a three-homer game since the Pittsburgh Pirates’ Andrew McCutchen did it in 2009.
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“It’s the best offensive game I’ve ever seen in person,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “I’ve seen three home runs, but to hit a grand slam when we’re tied … what that kid did today single-handedly got us back in the game with his bat.”
Parker’s first home run, a solo shot off Zito in the second inning, helped the Giants build an early 4-0 lead. After the A’s offense broke out in the middle innings, Parker’s two-run homer against Drew Pomeranz in the seventh closed Oakland’s lead to 10-9. Parker then came up with the score tied, the bases loaded and two outs in the eighth. Ryan Dull threw him a first-pitch fastball, and Parker hit it into the right-field seats.
“He looks like ‘The Natural’ right now, the way he’s swinging the bat,” Bochy said. “It’s an effortless swing. It’s got a different sound to it when he hits it. He’s one of those guys where when he hits it in the air, you believe it’s gone.”
Lately, there haven’t been many other results. In his last nine at-bats, Parker has five hits – all home runs. When the Giants first called up Parker from the River Cats in June, he went 1 for 9 with five strikeouts in four games and was promptly sent back to Triple A. Even when rosters expanded Sept. 1, the Giants still didn’t recall Parker right away.
Only after losing Gregor Blanco to a concussion did the Giants summon Parker, who had gone home to Northern Virginia after the minor-league season ended. Since his Sept. 11 call-up, Parker is 9 for 18 with five home runs in 10 games – not counting the one the Arizona Diamondbacks’ A.J. Pollock robbed him of in San Francisco.
“I’m just letting it hang out on the line,” Parker said. “Earlier in the year when I was up, I was a little hesitant. When I got sent back down, I told myself, ‘Next time I get called up, I’m going to let it all out on the line.’ I’m just trying to be aggressive and play my game.”
Three of Parker’s home runs, including his final two Saturday, came on the first pitch of the at-bat. He homered off Dull in the Giants’ 5-4 loss to the A’s on Friday night – a mammoth shot to center field that ESPN estimated at 474 feet. Parker said even with that recent history, he figured Dull would try to start him with a strike Saturday after walking the previous hitter to load the bases, and he pounced on it.
“He’s come on the scene with some authority this month,” Hudson said. “It’s been fun to watch.”
While the Zito-Hudson matchup started out heavy on nostalgia, cold reality soon set in. Zito allowed four runs in two innings and exited after walking Buster Posey to start the third. Hudson, meanwhile, unraveled after losing his command in the second. He issued three walks in the inning, hit two batters, allowed three runs without giving up one hit and was pulled in the middle of an at-bat having thrown five of 26 pitches for strikes.
The A’s led 8-4 before the Giants started to chip away, with Parker’s swings making the biggest dents. Adding depth to Parker’s day – he misplayed a fly ball in the third that allowed a run, and his breakout game helped salvage one of Hudson’s final starts before his impending retirement.
“To be able to play behind Huddy was pretty special,” Parker said. “So just trying to help him out and be there, it’s awesome.”
Told after the game of his statistical link with Mays, Parker said, “I can’t even respond to that. That’s wild.” He said he couldn’t remember ever hitting three home runs in a game before Saturday, even in Little League. He then was asked if Saturday’s stood as the best baseball game of his life.
“Yeah,” Parker said, grinning. “We can say that, pretty solidly.”