Jarrod Parker lost his last game, so it'll be a few days before he reflects on his rookie season. When he's ready, he can use this word: Special.
In his first season with the Oakland A's, Parker went from reliable rookie to the staff ace to a pitcher dueling with THE Justin Verlander in the playoffs. That's quite a debut.
He took the loss Thursday night, thanks to Verlander's magnificence and Oakland's youth and mistakes, as the Tigers beat the A's 6-0 to win Game 5 and take the American League Division Series. There's no shame there.
If this is how Parker pitches as a rookie, imagine where he'll be five years from now. Maybe even one year from now. He won an A's rookie-record 13 games this season, and pitched stronger and more confidently as the year progressed. I'll be shocked if he doesn't win 16 or 18 games next season. This is a driven, focused young pitcher. This was a special first season.
Parker gave as valiant an effort as any mere mortal can in dueling the otherworldly Verlander. Parker threw 6 1-3 innings, allowed seven hits and four runs (two scored after he left the game), struck out six and walked one.
Knowing the fierce competitive nature of Parker, which dates back to his days pitching at Norwell High School, he'll be working out, trying to become better today. It'll only be mental work today, given that he'll need to unwind from a grinding, unexpected regular-season division championship and playoff run. But he'll be grinding again before long.
The Tigers broke open the game in Parker's last partial inning. Leading 2-0, Detroit's Jhonny Peralta hit a single off A's third baseman Josh Donaldson's glove. Peralta stole second, Parker struck out Alex Avila and Omar Infante singled to drive Peralta to third.
A's manager Bob Melvin brought in reliever Ryan Cook. Cook was ineffective, to put it mildly, and the Tigers ended up with four runs in the inning to make it 6-0.
Verlander cruised from there, finishing the complete game, striking out 11 and allowing only four hits.
Until the seventh, Parker's only real problems came in the third when the Tigers scored two runs. Infante singled on a hair-too-high fastball, ended up on second after a wild pitch and scored on Austin Jackson's double. Jackson scored on another wild pitch that A's catcher Derek Norris failed to block. The Tigers led 2-0.
When Melvin took Parker out in the seventh, he had thrown only 85 pitches. In retrospect, the A's would have probably had a better chance if Melvin had let Parker try to weather the sixth-inning storm. But hindsight's 20-20, and they were never going to get to Verlander.
Parker pitched much better than the line score showed, but it would have taken a perfect effort to hang with Verlander, the game's best pitcher.
Parker started Game 1 and Game 5, taking both losses vs. Verlander, but they were two experiences that will benefit him as he moves forward. He should remind himself today that he's a mere 23 years old. He's one full season into his Major League Baseball career.
This is only the beginning, and Parker has proved he's quite a starter.