After Tuesday night’s performance, it’s safe to say that Jarrod Parker should no longer be a source of worry for an Oakland Athletics team that is currently rolling.
Parker went seven innings and gave up only five hits with four strikeouts and one walk in the A’s 6-3 win over the San Francisco Giants, and his steadiness on the mound guided Oakland to their sixth win in a row and gave the A’s a chance to sweep their neighbors to the west as the series moves to San Francisco for the final two games.
Oakland’s offense wasn’t perfect — they went 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position and left nine men on base. But two-run outbursts in the second and third innings would be the difference for Bob Melvin’s club, and they’ll head across the Bay Bridge banging on all cylinders, with a mere 2 and 1/2 games separating them from the Texas Rangers at the top of the AL West.
The first inning belonged to San Francisco. The defending world champs jumped out to an early 1-0 lead thanks to an RBI single from Hunter Pence, which scored Marco Scutaro from second. Kickham needed only nine pitches to get through Oakland’s 1-2-3 hitters, and the rookie’s pitches looked sharp in his first appearance on a big league mound.
But the roles were reversed in the second inning, and Parker easily retired the side while the A’s took a 2-1 lead in the bottom half of the inning courtesy of a Derek Norris home run down the left field line.
It was all downhill from there for Kickham. With one out in the bottom of the third, Chris Young worked his way back from a 1-2 hole to draw a walk. In the next at-bat, Yoenis Cespedes smoked a ground ball past Pablo Sandoval at third that would result in a stand-up double, and after intentionally walking Josh Donaldson, Kickham walked Jed Lowrie to score Chris Young from third.
At that point Kickham was at 60 pitches and looking shaky with his control, and when Nate Freiman singled to right to bring home Cespedes to put the A’s up 4-1, Giants manager Bruce Bochy summoned George Kontos out of the bullpen and put an end to the 24-year-old’s first Major League appearance.
The final line for Kickham: four earned runs on four hits, with four walks, three strikeouts, and one home run in 2.1 innings. Kontos was able to retire Norris for the second out of the fifth, but he was replaced by left-hander Javier Lopez to face Seth Smith, who was brought in to pinch hit for Luke Montz by Bob Melvin in the final at-bat of the inning.
The bullpen management by Bochy succeeded in ending the A’s rally, but it also forced him to work through two key relievers in two-thirds of an inning. Right-hander Chad Gaudin — who was initially thought of as a possible candidate to start tonight’s game — was then brought in to pitch the fourth, coming through with a quick 1-2-3 inning.
However, he hit a rough patch in the fifth, giving up consecutive singles to Donaldson and Lowrie before walking Norris with two outs. Gaudin then walked Smith to give the A’s scored their second run of the game on a bases loaded walk, and the A’s took a 5-1 lead.
Meanwhile, Parker was dealing for the A’s. He had only allowed two baserunners since the first inning when Scutaro doubled to lead off the sixth. After getting Pablo Sandoval to groundout to third, Buster Posey tagged Parker for his second run of the game on an RBI groundout to score Scutaro from third.
That would be the last hit the Giants would get off of him as he retired Pence to end the inning and worked through the seventh in only six pitches to finish his night.
Ryan Cook worked through the eighth without incident and Adam Rosales gave the A’s a little insurance with a solo home run in the bottom half of the inning off of Jose Mijares.
Grant Balfour recovered after giving up a one-out homer to Pence in the ninth to strike out Brandon Belt and Andres Torres to end the game, giving Oakland their tenth win in 11 games.
For the time being, the A’s have the bragging rights in the Bay Area, and fans of the Oakland A’s will have at least one more day to hold the win over the heads of the San Francisco faithful.
Game 3 of the Battle of the Bay will start at 7:15 Wednesday night, with Tommy Milone taking on Tim Lincecum in the pitching matchup. Hope to see some of you at the ballpark.