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TEX@OAK: Parker flirts with no-no in win over Rangers

OAKLAND -- Given the A's offensive struggles, the eight-run second inning they managed in a 12-1 victory over the Rangers on Monday night was nothing less than shocking. It seemed that no other facet of the game had a chance of topping that story line.

Then, Jarrod Parker retired the side in order in the fourth inning, and again in the fifth, and again in the sixth. It went on like this -- the 24-year-old rookie, making just his ninth career start, mowing down an opponent that leads the Majors in just about every offensive category -- for seven innings, Parker defying the odds and his inexperience and everything else.

After getting feared slugger Josh Hamilton to swing and miss on an in-the-dirt changeup in the sixth inning, striking him out for the second straight time in the exact same fashion, it seemed that the only thing standing between Parker and a no-hitter was his surgically repaired right arm, having tallied 107 pitches through the seventh inning.

"I looked at [pitching coach Curt Young], and I said, 'There's always something to grind on, even in a game like that," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "Boy, that was difficult. If he comes in after eight [innings], he's at 120 [pitches]. What do you do?"

It was not to be. In the top of the eighth, Parker left a slider hanging over the plate and Texas second baseman Michael Young hit a sharp ground ball right up the middle and through the infield, ending Parker's historic bid for a no-hitter.

Melvin's dilemma echoed that of Mets manager Terry Collins from just three days before. Collins had to decide whether to keep sending left-hander Johan Santana out to the mound -- Santana was on the verge of recording a no-hitter but also had a high pitch count and was also coming off arm surgery.

"I'm glad I didn't have to make that decision," Melvin said. "[Parker's] pretty important to us, and a guy coming off Tommy John, you certainly don't want him [hurt]."

But the night was far from lost, for Parker or his team. The right-hander finished the eighth inning and exited after a dazzling performance, holding the fearsome Rangers to that one hit and no runs. It may not go down in the record books, but Parker was still magnificent.

"He threw well," Michael Young said. "You have to give him credit. We weren't able to get anything going offensively. When they had that big second inning, he did a great job of coming after us, which is what you have to do, throw strikes and work quickly."

The way Parker pitched, Oakland needed just a couple runs to win the series opener against Texas, but the A's got many more than that, bucking the trend of their recent play.

Oakland was shut out in Kansas City on Sunday for the third time in the team's last four games, and their 11 total shutouts this season are the most in the Majors. When Rangers starter Scott Feldman retired the side with ease in the bottom of the first, it seemed like the A's were headed for another long night offensively.

Then the second inning happened.

Center fielder Yoenis Cespedes led off with a walk, and the next six A's reached base, led by third baseman Brandon Inge's three-run home run. Shortstop Cliff Pennington, mired in a career-high 0-for-29 slump, followed with an RBI double three batters later, and second baseman Jemile Weeks laced a two-run single right after Pennington.

Inge brought things full circle with a single off new Texas pitcher Robbie Ross for his fourth RBI of the inning. By the time the frame was over, Oakland had plated eight runs, an offensive outburst that has been rare lately for a club that came into Monday ranking last in the Majors with a .209 batting average.

The A's added two more runs each in the fifth and eighth innings, adding up to a big win over the first-place Rangers.

Seth Smith led the way, going 4-for-5 and falling a homer short of the cycle.

"Offensively, we talk about contagious," Melvin said. "You have nothing, and then all of a sudden somebody breaks through, and then somebody right after. Hopefully, this really is something to build on."

Not that the insurance runs really mattered, the way Parker was throwing.

"An 8-0 lead is fun to pitch with," Parker said. "After we got those runs, it was something where I just wanted to get out there and get the guys back in as quick as I could, and wanted to throw strikes, pitch good and let them put the ball in play and just followed [catcher Kurt Suzuki] all night."

Parker said he didn't feel nervous, even though he became aware of his potential no-hit bid in the fifth or sixth inning. His teammates mostly left him alone in the dugout, but Parker didn't suddenly become "anti-social," in his words, and instead said he "treated it just like another game."

But as Parker methodically and magically worked his way through the Rangers' potent lineup, it very nearly became something special. If the young righty's early pedigree in the big leagues is any indication, there could well be more breathless nights like this in the future.

"He's always going to have his stuff, it's just a matter of being consistent," Suzuki said. "You're seeing it now. The more times he goes out there, the more comfortable he gets."

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