Melvin laments Parker's early exit from Saturday's game
Jarrod Parker's last six starts saw him go 4-0 with a 2.34 ERA. (USA TODAY IMAGES)
OAKLAND -- There was no doubt about it in the A's locker room -- Jarrod Parker was dealing Saturday.
Parker and St. Louis starter Adam Wainwright barely had time to catch their breath between the first three innings of the Cardinals' 7-1 win in Oakland Saturday, as the second-year Athletic matched the two-time world champion pitch for pitch until he couldn't anymore.
[RECAP: Cardinals 7, A's 1]
Battling the 84-degree heat and lack of downtime between innings, the game turned with the telling image of Parker lying on the mound, clutching at his right leg while Allen Craig cruised into second base with a double -- his first hit of the series.
"Yeah, it sucks," Parker said after walking gingerly across the A's locker room. "I've just been building on outings prior, and today everything was working good early. I was able to establish the fastball in and out. It's just unfortunate."
It will be unfortunate if Parker has to miss any time. After starting the season 1-5 with a 7.34 ERA, Parker's last six starts saw him go 4-0 with a 2.34 ERA.
A's manager Bob Melvin was hesitant to label it an injury, and the team is tip-toeing the line between cramp and strain by simply diagnosing "hamstring tightness."
"Every cramp is a slight strain, depending on hydration, and we're hoping that's what it is," Melvin said. "We'll know more (Sunday)."
Parker, who said his warm-up pitches after the incident "felt alright," wanted to finish the inning, but he didn't push too hard to stay in.
"We made a good decision," he said, backing up his manager's words that they acted prudently, despite the quality of his pitches.
"The unfortunate thing is that might have been as good of stuff as he's had all year," Melvin said. "Great change-up, great velocity, good movement, good slider. We might have been here awhile had that not have happened."
It's a sentiment that was shared by his players.
"I think we both might have got out with no decisions," Parker said, entertaining the hypothetical scenario in which he did not get hurt.
"If he could have stayed in the entire game, we could still be playing 0-0," Josh Donaldson said. "He really looked sharp. That's the best I've seen him all year -- early."
Parker has shown a propensity for getting out of the gate slowly this year. In his first 16 starts, the first inning has been Parker's worst; he's allowed 12 runs in 16 opening frames. It was no problem Saturday, though, as Parker expended just 13 pitches and dispatched the Cardinals in order.
The 24-year-old starter, who has never had any serious issues with his legs and didn't feel any discomfort prior to the fateful pitch, left the field under his own power and headed straight for the locker room where he "did the normal stuff" to treat his ailing hamstring.
With Parker down, Wainwright was the lone ace standing, and he stood tall. St. Louis' All-Star used 112 pitches to navigate all nine innings for his fourth complete game and league-leading 11th win this season (Nationals' Jordan Zimmermann also has 11).
Melvin left impressed: "Good cutter. Good curveball. Threw his curveball for a strike whenever he wanted to. A few change-ups. Good sink and cut on his fastball, which end up being two distinct pitches for him. He's got great downward plane.
"When he's on, he's one of the better pitchers in the league."
Parker agreed, and appeared very disappointed that external circumstances interrupted his chance to compete with one of the best. But he still looked to learn from his shortened outing.
"His tempo's great," Parker said of his counterpart. "He works quick. Those first few innings flew by for both of us. He's so efficient. It's something you try to emulate and repeat."
For now, the only thing Parker will be repeating is right hamstring treatments.
Parker nailed it when he said, "(Sunday) will be a big day" -- for the A's second starter as well as the organization.