OAKLAND – There wasn’t anything unusual about the A’s winning a game Sunday, given their recent hot streak. It’s the obstacle they overcame that made their 2-0 victory over the Chicago White Sox so noteworthy.
The A’s won their third straight game Sunday, and for the 14th time in 16 games, by doing something no other American League West team ever has done: beat White Sox ace Chris Sale.
In doing so, Jarrod Parker picked up his fourth victory and improved to 4-6 after a 0-4 start.
“As good as Jarrod was, he matched up and pitched better than Sale,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said.
It took the A’s more than 100 pitches to get to Sale, but they agreed it was well worth the wait for them and the 23,413 fans at the Coliseum.
Sale and Parker engaged in a scoreless duel through the first 5 ½ innings, before Josh Donaldson broke the tie with a sacrifice fly that scored Coco Crisp with one out in the bottom of the sixth.
“I don’t know if anybody else scores on that,” Donaldson said of Crisp, who beat a strong throw from right fielder Casper Wells.
Crisp scored the A’s other run, too, when he scored from first in the eighth on a hit-and-run single by Jed Lowrie that centerfielder Jordan Danks bobbled.
Crisp had one of the A’s six hits and their lone walk. Melvin and several players said Crisp’s role in manufacturing runs is magnified in close games.
“It’s always nice to have him on base doing his thing,” Melvin said. “You’re just a little bit more on edge on the other side when he’s on base.”
Still, it’s the pitchers that shined most Sunday.
Sale won his first 10 career decisions against American League West teams. He also entered Sunday’s game with four straight wins, 23 consecutive scoreless innings and only five runs allowed his past five starts.
Sure enough, Sale delivered six solid innings before he departed down 1-0. Yet, Parker pitched even better, with two hits and two walks allowed in 6 1/3 innings. He also recorded seven strikeouts.
“Anytime a pitcher of his caliber gets ahead in the count and establishes the strike zone, he’s going to have success, especially when he’s got that sinker going,” A’s catcher Derek Norris said.
Parker credited his recent success to improved mechanics, better health and being more aggressive.
He pitched better as the game progressed, especially after escaping a first-and-second situation with back-to-back strikeouts in the first. He needed 29 pitches in the first frame.
“I knew I had to be efficient and shorten the game and try to get it to our pen as quick as I could,” Parker said.
Parker succeeded by pitching inside a great deal and relying upon his sinker instead of his changeup and slider, he said.
Melvin said Parker now is looking more and more like the pitcher that posted a 13-8 record last season.
“It feels like the Jarrod we’re used to seeing,” Melvin said. “When he gets hit around a little bit, it’s surprising.”
– Jerry Blevins, Ryan Cook and Grant Balfour combined for the final 2 2/3 innings. Balfour notched his 13th save in as many opportunities this season, and 31st straight overall dating to last season.
– Chicago’s Alexei Ramirez hit Norris’ left index finger with his bat on the follow through of his swing in the sixth inning. Norris stayed in the game after being looked at by a team trainer. He said he’s “fine.”
– Left fielder Yoenis Cespedes got drilled in the right foot by a pitch from Sale in the fourth inning. Cespedes remained in the game.
– The A’s upped their winning streak at home to eight games, the longest such streak since 2006. They also improved to a season-high 10 games over .500 (34-24).
– The A’s now hit the road for seven games in seven days, three against the Milwaukee Brewers and four against the White Sox.