Though initially ugly, as starter Jarrod Parker was tagged for six runs in just two-plus innings, the loss included a fruitful comeback attempt by the A's, who watched a previously struggling Josh Donaldson break out for his first homer of the season, along with two doubles, for a grand total of a career-high five RBIs.
Donaldson had compiled just four other hits in 49 at-bats with the big league club prior to Friday, tallying only five total bases. On this night, he had eight, rewarding manager Bob Melvin's decision to keep him in the lineup despite recent struggles, both offensively and defensively.
"I don't know what he was doing," Donaldson joked. "Obviously he knew something I didn't or everyone in Oakland didn't. I've heard some things, and I follow the Oakland fan base. I haven't been one of the most popular guys around ever since I've been here because I've struggled. Whatever could go wrong did go wrong, and tonight was really big for me as far as confidence-wise and just to show everyone here and, especially Melvin, that I can play at this level and have some success."
"We've seen him struggle confidence-wise at the big league level, and for a guy who hasn't been here that long it can get to you a little bit," Melvin said. "He has the ability to get big hits. There's a good chance he'll be in there tomorrow."
Donaldson appears to have taken a liking to AT&T Park, where he went 4-for-5 with two home runs and five RBIs in Oakland's final exhibition game earlier in the year. His most recent efforts, however, weren't enough to offset a poor pitching performance that included a combined nine walks by A's pitchers.
Two were even issued to Giants lefty Barry Zito, who not only reached base against his former team but held the A's off the board through the first two innings, before allowing four runs over the next four, while coming out with the win.
"There's an art to that," the veteran Zito said of throwing to pitchers. "You know the guy's not a, quote, Major League hitter. I think that's something we all struggle with our first couple of go-rounds."
Oakland's pitching staff had allowed just 19 runs over the previous seven games before Friday, when Parker showed up without the command that guided him in each of his first five starts, all of which included just two runs or fewer in at least five innings pitched.
The right-handed Parker notched a 1-2-3 first inning but walked Angel Pagan to lead off the second and allowed back-to-back base hits to Brandon Belt and Hector Sanchez, along with a sacrifice fly to Joaquin Arias, to hand the Giants a two-run lead.
Donaldson's solo shot in the third, his first home run of the season, cut that lead in half, but San Francisco roared back with a four-run third that saw 10 Giants batters step to the plate. Parker faced five of them, his last being Belt, who walked with the bases loaded to bring in a run.
"I don't know, just a little off today," said Parker, who was feeling slightly under the weather. "I fought myself today, and obviously the results weren't what I wanted, so you just move on and forget about it. It was one of those snowball effects. Obviously they worked me a bit and the pitch count was up, and a couple hits here and there, I just couldn't get things turned around quick enough."
Lefty reliever Jerry Blevins came aboard with no outs to relieve Parker and also managed to walk in a run by throwing ball four on a 3-2 count to Zito.
The Giants tacked on two more runs in the fourth to give them eight total, a number the A's could never catch, despite posting four in the sixth courtesy of Cliff Pennington's RBI single and Donaldson's bases-clearing double.
"Collectively, I think the hitters said, 'We gotta pick the pitchers up this time,'" Melvin said. "You always want to keep battling, keep fighting, all the way through the ninth inning. Certainly you'd like to win the game, and there's no moral victories as that goes, but we feel like we're never out of it and keep battling. Certainly that's a good trait to have."
So is confidence, which was gained in a big way by Donaldson, who called his career day "a very emotional day for me."
"I've been grinding and things just haven't been going my way here lately," he said. "To have a night like tonight, unfortunately in a loss, I finally felt really good and comfortable. I don't know if I'm seeing the ball better here, but I feel pretty comfortable here. It was huge for me tonight, because I've been grinding my tail off so much, and for me to just continue to fail and fail again, it wears on you awhile."
Gone, hopefully for good, is Donaldson's slump. So, too, is his beard, as the third baseman took equipment manager Steve Vucinich's advice before game time.
"He told me, 'Dude, you need to change something,'" Donaldson recalled. "I had my version of a beard, and he said, 'You need to get rid of it.' And I did."