Here’s what’s going on: the Republicans are trying to repeal Obamacare, Anthony Weiner is in trouble for thinking with his wiener and A’s are getting set to square off with the Detroit Tigers in the American League Division Series.
That’s right, a full summer and 162 baseball games later, nothing’s really changed.
In 2012, Justin Verlander proved to be the difference in a short, best-of-five series, and as the teams prepare for a rematch, which gets underway at O.co Coliseum on Friday, the A’s are still looking for their own Verlander-like horse to ride to the World Series.
The A’s appeared to have this problem solved just a few weeks ago. As Oakland completed its road sweep of the Texas Rangers on Sept. 15, Jarrod Parker seemed capable of toeing the rubber with any pitcher in baseball.
At the time, Parker was riding a 19-game unbeaten streak, the franchise’s longest since Lefty Grove strung together 21 straight starts without a defeat in 1931. Over that stretch, Parker toppled aces Chris Sale, Yu Darvish and David Price, compiling a 9-0 record with a 1.90 ERA.
The A’s rotation has been a hurricane of moving pieces again this year, with Brett Anderson’s early-season ankle injury, Tommy Milone’s departure to the bullpen and Bartolo Colon’s rise, fall and September resurgence. Through the ups and downs, though, Parker pitched with remarkable consistency, providing a quality start every fifth day.
But with October looming, the 24-year-old right-hander is hitting an unexpected rut. In his last three starts, he’s posted a 9.21 ERA, a 1.50 WHIP and, suddenly, Colon appears to be a more reliable option for starting Game 1 and Game 5.
Whomever Bob Melvin decides to go with, the A’s will need Parker’s best stuff to make a World Series run. Parker is the A’s most talented pitcher with the league’s second-best changeup and a fastball that runs in the mid-90s while dancing all over the strike zone.
The Tigers are no longer a one-man band on the hill. In addition to Verlander, Jim Leyland’s staff features the American League’s winningest pitcher, Max Scherzer (21), and the league’s ERA leader among starters, Anibal Sanchez (2.57).
Fortunately, the A’s are receiving a four-day break for winning the AL West and the extra rest might be just what Parker needs to regain his form.
The right-hander threw 197 innings this year after tossing 181 ¹⁄³ innings as a rookie in 2012, his first full season after undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2009. Prior to the season, Sports Illustrated flagged Parker as a likely candidate to suffer from “year-after effect” — when young pitchers are ineffective a year after seeing a workload increase of 30-plus innings — and maybe the extra miles are finally catching up to him.
If so, this series could wind up being a replay of last year’s duel, in which case, you might want to stay in bed for another week.
Paul Gackle is a contributor to The San Francisco Examiner. He can be reached at email@example.com and followed on Twitter @GackleReport.