DETROIT -- When the Oakland Athletics traded All-Star pitchers Gio Gonzalez and Trevor Cahill in the offseason many thought the organization was throwing away the season. Little did they know they were acquiring two young aces in the making that would end up starting the first two games of the American League Divisional Series.Oakland announced on Friday that Jarrod Parker, who was acquired in the Cahill trade, would be taking the mound in Game 1 of the ALDS against the Detroit Tigers, and that Tommy Milone, who was swapped for Gonzalez, would be pitching in Game 2.The A's rotation may be youthful, but it's hard to say their rookies lack experience at this point. Oakland rookie pitchers notched a major league record 53 wins this season, so it makes sense that they'd ride their two best young arms through the playoffs. Parker and Milone finished the 2012 season tied with a team-high 13 wins, the most by a rookie pitcher in A's franchise history.The two first-year pitchers have been so successful this season that A's manager Bob Melvin often says they cannot be considered rookies anymore. Parker made 29 starts, Milone made 31. Parker didn't start the season on the A's roster but quickly earned a spot and proved that he is one of the top rookie pitchers in the game."I think the way Jarrod has been pitching here recently coupled with the fact that we'll keep him on regular routine was the final decision," Melvin said. "But we're comfortable with either."Parker has been poised under pressure all season long. He won all three of his starts against the Rangers, and in September he defeated the Angels in Anaheim in front of a sold out crowd, and held the Yankees to one run in New York. Having already proven he can stay calm under big-game pressure, Parker isn't treating Game 1 in Detroit any differently."I try not to make too much out of the situation," Parker said. "Obviously we've had some big games as a group and we've had huge situations as a group, and it's something where you just try to slow it down."Just because he is stoic doesn't mean he isn't recognizing the opportunity."I'm excited," Parker said. "Obviously this team has gone through a lot this year. And you know, we're happy to be here. It's kind of a tribute to the work we've done as a team. It's an honor."Parker finished with 140 strikeouts which ranks him fourth all-time in Oakland history for a rookie. He also allowed one run or fewer in 10 of his 14 starts, according to Elias Sports Bureau he is only the second pitcher since 1900 to do so. Parker is excited to face reigning American League MVP and Cy Young-winner Justin Verlander (17-8, 2.64 ERA) in Game 1 because he says the A's relish the underdog role. Even though Oakland won 94 games and Detroit won 88, the youthful A's could still be considered the underdogs when up against the Goliaths of the Tigers lineup in Prince Fielder and triple crown-winner Miguel Cabrera."We've been 'The David' all year," Parker said. "I think obviously it's a role and an image that we embrace and it's fun."Milone will be opposed by Doug Fister (10-10, 3.45 ERA) in the second game of the series. Milone, 25, is eager for the opportunity as well."I mean it's huge," Milone said. "Obviously we want to be in big situations and I feel we've been able to do that all year. It's nothing different now."While Parker is impressive for his poise, Milone's main attribute is his control. He pitches to contact and makes batters put the ball in play. The young lefty walked just 36 batters in 190 innings pitched this season, his 1.71 walks per nine innings was the second best mark in the American League. He doesn't intend to change the approach that led to his 3.71 ERA, which was third best among rookie pitchers."Just go out there and try to remember your game," Milone said. "You can't try to do to much. For me, I can't go out there and try to throw 95 miles per hour. It's just not going to work."You just have to remember it's the same game whether or not it's the postseason. Just go out there, have fun, and continue to pitch, and play baseball."The A's young pitchers were forced to sink or swim, and they kept the team afloat during the playoff push. The starting rotation lost veterans Brandon McCarthy, Bartolo Colon, and Brett Anderson all within a matter of weeks."We've gone though a lot in our starting rotation this year," Parker said. "Tommy has been here all year, and I've been here a little bit less than he has. And we kind of unspoken have done it together. We kind of knew we had to pick up the other guys."Parker faced Detroit on May 13 and allowed two runs over five and two-thirds innings but took the loss. Milone is 1-0 in two starts against the Tigers. He has allowed five runs -- four earned -- in 11 23 innings against Detroit this season.The A's rookie 1-2 punch can be proud of what they accomplished this season, but first they have to worry about the task at hand, stopping the Tigers and advancing to the American League Championship Series. No matter what happens in the playoffs, though, the A's know they have two starting pitchers with a bright future."We knew we had to step up," Parker said. "It's something that after the year we're going to look back and reflect, know we had a pretty good role in things that have happened and knowing we were a big part of this."
A’s general manager David Forst says he has a stack of strongly worded letters from fans who grow frustrated with many of the team’s personnel moves.
That comes with the territory of running a major league front office. But Forst also said, during a wide-ranging interview on the latest A’s Insider Podcast, that honest critiquing must come from within office walls.
“You do want to do some self-evaluation and self-assessing,” Forst said. “What I don’t do, I don’t go back and second-guess decisions, whether it’s a trade or a signing. I don’t sort of hypothetically think, ‘Well, what if we hadn’t done this,’ because it’s not a good use of anybody’s time. What you do have to do is make sure the process that led to that decision is sound and a good one.”
Certainly one of the most scrutinized A’s moves of recent history was their signing of designated hitter Billy Butler to a three-year $30 million contract in November 2014. That turned out to be a costly mistake, with Butler being released in September with one year left on his deal and the A’s still on the hook for roughly $10 million. Forst acknowledged how poorly that decision worked out but sticks by the initial motivation to sign Butler.
“Look, Billy Butler didn’t go the way we expected, and that’s one that gets brought up a lot,” Forst said. “But I think back to the time when we made that decision to sign him, and what we were projecting Billy to do. It was very clear what our team needed. Again, going into 2015, coming off the wild card that year, we still felt like this was a team that could compete for a division title. So all the things that went into the decision, ultimately I will stand by.”
Forst spoke frankly about several other topics during the podcast. Regarding fans’ frustration about seeing so many high-profile players traded:
“I’ve got a stack of letters on my desk, the substance of which I can’t repeat on the air,” he said with a smile. “… But there’s passion. And I know we have a fan base that cares, and that’s really a good place to be.”
Forst said the A’s definitely will pursue starting pitching this offseason, despite the fact that 1) he’s very optimistic about the crop of young pitching Oakland has developed, and 2) he believes Sonny Gray will bounce back from a poor 2016 season. The GM takes encouragement that Gray made a full physical recovery from a strained forearm.
“Am I going to get the Cy Young (caliber pitcher) from Day 1? I don’t know. But I think there’s a confidence that this was an aberration, this whole year, more than anything else.”
TORONTO -- A most unlikely pitching performance helped put a most unexpected team into the World Series.
Rookie Ryan Merritt coolly delivered a lead to the Andrew Miller-led bullpen and the Cleveland Indians won their first pennant since 1997, blanking Toronto 3-0 Wednesday in Game 5 of the AL Championship Series.
Cleveland, which has never hosted a World Series opener, will play Game 1 at Progressive Field on Tuesday night against either the Chicago Cubs or Los Angeles Dodgers.
The Indians will try to boost what's already been a magical year in Cleveland after LeBron James and the Cavaliers earned the city's first sports championship since 1964. The Indians' title drought dates to 1948.
The Dodgers led the Cubs 2-1 going into Game 4 of the NLCS on Wednesday night. Cleveland didn't play either team this season.
With all of 11 major league innings under his belt, Merritt took the mound and looked just like a seasoned vet. The 24-year-old lefty retired the first 10 batters and allowed only two hits before being pulled after 4 1/3 innings.
Then it was up to Cleveland's tireless relievers to hold a three-run lead.
Miller again did most of the heavy lifting, pitching 2 2/3 innings, and Cody Allen pitched the ninth for the save. Winner Bryan Shaw worked an inning before Miller came in.
Carlos Santana and Coco Crisp homered for the Indians.