Parker, Milone tabbed for Games 1, 2; Anderson hopes he’s next
DETROIT — The hearty A’s will start their improbable playoff run away from home, in front of what’s sure to be a raucous crowd in chilly temperatures at Comerica Park, against a stacked Tigers lineup they’ve decided to entrust a pair of rookies to handle.
Manager Bob Melvin likes their chances.
The A’s skipper has decided to start right-handed rookie Jarrod Parker in Game 1 of the AL Division Series on Saturday, with another rookie, lefty Tommy Milone, getting the nod in Game 2 opposite Doug Fister. No announcement has been made for the ensuing games, though a healthy Brett Anderson seems the likely choice for Tuesday’s start, with young righty A.J. Griffin a strong bet for Wednesday’s potential Game 4.
“We were comfortable with either,” Melvin said of Parker and Milone from Comerica Park on Friday. “We’ll keep Parker on turn. He’s been pitching well here recently. Both of them have been given a little bit of rest over the course of the season. But I think the way Jarrod’s been pitching here recently, coupled with the fact that we’ll keep him on his regular routine, was the final decision.”
Parker is the first A’s rookie to start the first game of a postseason series and, at 23 years and 317 days come Saturday, will be the second youngest pitcher to start Game 1 for the A’s. At 22 years and 67 days, Vida Blue did so during the 1971 AL Championship Series.
This after he compiled a 13-8 record and 3.47 ERA, numbers that proved similar to partner in crime Milone, who posted a 13-10 ledger and 3.74 ERA. In doing so, both set the Oakland record for most wins by a rookie pitcher, surpassing the previous mark of 12 held by Chris Codirolo (1983) and Joe Blanton (2005).
“I’m excited,” said Parker, who will be opposed by Detroit ace Justin Verlander. “Obviously this team’s gone through a lot this year. And you know we’re happy to be here. And it’s kind of a tribute to the work we’ve done as a team. And it’s an honor, and obviously I’m going to be as prepared as I can to get ready.”
It will mark Parker’s first career start in Detroit and second overall against the Tigers, to whom he surrendered two runs on six hits with four walks and five strikeouts spanning 5 2/3 innings in a May 13 outing this year.
Two days prior it was the 25-year-old Milone facing the Tigers for the first time in his young career, a task that proved rather easy for the lefty, who gave up just one run on five hits while fanning six and walking just one that day. Milone again pitched against them on Sept. 20, this time at Comerica Park, where he was rung up for 94 pitches in just 4 2/3 innings, giving up three runs and nine hits along the way.
Milone’s home and road splits are telling, what with a 2.74 ERA and six home runs allowed in 15 starts made at the pitcher-friendly confines of the Coliseum, compared to the 4.83 mark he posted on the road, where he surrendered 18 homers in six starts.
Yet the postseason allows for a clean slate, and the A’s are confident in getting the job done with Parker and Milone, their chances of a series victory that much greater if they can depart Detroit with at least one win in tow.
“We wouldn’t have it any other way, given these are the two guys that have consistently been here for the most part and have done a tremendous job,” Anderson said. “These are two guys, their mentality is not going to make a difference. They’re two of the most even-keeled guys you’ll ever meet, so I don’t expect the atmosphere or the enormity of the game to get to them. They’re going to go out there and throw strikes like they’ve done all year. It’s going to be fun to watch.”
As for Anderson, the most veteraned arm of the starting staff at age 25, he’ll throw a bullpen on Saturday and, if all goes well, expects to take the ball for Tuesday’s Game 3 start, less than a month after he suffered a right oblique strain.
“I’ve been feeling good lately,” he said. “It was obviously a big win to win the division on Wednesday for multiple reasons but also to help me get a couple extra days of rest and, if I do start Tuesday, almost a weeks’ worth. That’s truly beneficial, for the oblique and for the team.”