DETROIT -- At least Justin Verlander can't pitch every day.
In reality, Verlander probably could, but the A's can find solace in the fact the Tigers righty likely won't take the mound again for another five days. Until then, Oakland has some catching up to do, after dropping Saturday's American League Division Series opener at Comerica Park, 3-1, at the hands of baseball's reigning AL Cy Young Award winner, who tallied 11 of Detroit's 14 strikeouts.
"You can't try to out-think him, because he can throw any pitch at any time and throw them all for strikes," first baseman Brandon Moss said. "He's special, he really is."
"That's Verlander, that's playoff baseball," second baseman Cliff Pennington said. "That's how it's going to be this time of year. We've got to be able to scratch runs across, get a lead and go to our bullpen."
But that recipe went awry on this night.
Righty Jarrod Parker, the first rookie in franchise history to start Game 1 of a postseason series, held his own on the mound in an amped environment, limiting the star-studded Tigers to three runs over 6 1/3 impressive innings. But it was his own error that led to one run, and his teammates remained handcuffed at the plate and managed just four hits in the affair.
Verlander proved very hittable for all of one minute, as Coco Crisp launched a leadoff home run to right field in the first for an immediate one-run lead. Oakland would tally just two more hits off baseball's most feared right-hander, though, and its confidence didn't stand a chance, either.
As the A's have learned before, Verlander only gets better as the day fades, and they fell victim to such ability -- albeit while dealing with a debatable strike zone -- in the later innings, as the Tigers hurler struck out five straight and six of seven between the fifth and seventh frames.
"We thought it was going to be a good game," right fielder Josh Reddick said. "We had a lot of momentum going our way in that first inning, and we did what we made him do last time, throw a lot of pitches and get his pitch count up early. But that's what he does. It doesn't matter if he throws 90 or 130, it seems he's going to throw six or seven innings, no matter what."
Their psyche perhaps battered, the strikeout-prone A's ultimately never staged the type of comeback that dictated so many of their regular-season victories, even following Verlander's departure after seven innings and 121 pitches.
The lack of offense magnified Parker's third-inning miscue. Having retired five straight after giving up a run in the first, the right-hander surrendered a one-out double to Omar Infante in the third, and after forcing a popup from Austin Jackson for out No. 2, Parker induced a ground ball that he fielded for what he thought would be the inning-ending out. But the ball bounced off his glove as he ran toward first base, trailing far enough to allow Infante to score.
"I scooped it and tried to touch the base on the run and it just came out," Parker said.
"That's a ball we're probably both going to go for, just because if it gets by him, he's got to get first and I got to field the ball, and if it doesn't, he can take field it and take first himself," Moss explained. "I think it was just an infield hit. It didn't get by him, and he made a good play to get to it, and then it kind of came out of his glove. Just one of those plays where everything had to go right and it didn't."
A calm Parker remained composed and wouldn't allow another hit until the fifth, but it was a big one from Alex Avila, who collected a leadoff shot against the righty, who finished the regular season with the AL's lowest home run rate at 0.5 per nine innings.
The damage was too much for the A's to overcome, their deficit in the best-of-five series reading 0-1 as they enter Sunday's Game 2. In their 12 previous postseason series in which they lost Game 1, the A's have come back to win the series three times but not once since the 1974 AL Championship Series.
They're overdo, it seems, and they'll carry an extra dose of inspiration while sporting "GJN" patches on their uniforms in honor of reliever Pat Neshek's son, Gehrig John, who suddenly passed just 23 hours after being born this week. Neshek relieved Parker in the seventh, garnering two emotional outs, the last an inning-ending strikeout he celebrated by patting his patch while glancing toward the sky.
The scene, in many ways, lent perspective to this loss and softened the frustration stemming from its many disappointing parts.
"We're not worrying," Reddick said. "We've done well against people all year when we've been down one game, so we're not going to fret over it, panic. We can still take one here tomorrow and go home with that. That's what we plan to do."