Talk about a roller coaster few days for the A’s bullpen. On Friday, Sean Doolittle gave up a walk-off homer. On Saturday, they combined for 10 innings of one-run ball before Pedro Figueroa and Pat Neshek gave up a four-run lead in the 13th inning of an eventual loss. Then on Sunday, the relievers bailed out A.J. Griffin and combined for 4 2/3 shutout innings to salt away a victory over the Yankees. And then came Monday’s 5-4 loss to the Texas Rangers. Starter Dan Straily left with a 4-2 lead in the seventh, only to see Jerry Blevins walk Josh Hamilton and Pat Neshek give up a two-run homer to Adrian Beltre. In the ninth, Tyson Ross allowed Beltre’s walk-off single.
It’s the worst time of the year for the A’s to fall short-handed on relief options in the late innings. But that’s happened because of back-to-back starts in which Travis Blackley lasted just two innings (in a game that eventually went 14 innings) and A.J. Griffin lasted just 4 1/3 innings. As a trickle-down effect, seldom-used relievers such as Ross and Figueroa are thrust into crucial situations.
Due to the above conditions, manager Bob Melvin’s hands were tied to an extent on who he called on from the bullpen Monday. Ryan Cook looked dominant in a 1-2-3 eighth inning, but because Cook was pitching for the third straight day, Melvin wasn’t going to use him for more than one inning. Closer Grant Balfour also had pitched the previous two days and was only going to enter if it was a save situation. Sean Doolittle did not get in the game. Melvin didn’t mention him as being unavailable, but the lefty had pitched in two of the previous three games, and the A’s are trying to be careful with him in his first full season of pitching professionally. So maybe Melvin wanted to stay away from him.
But with the decision to call on Ross, who is now 2-11 in the majors this season, you can question whether someone like Jeremy Accardo could have been a better option. We haven’t seen Accardo yet as he just got called up Sunday, and he hadn’t pitched competitively since the Triple-A season had ended. But he is an eight-year big league veteran, and if he wasn’t ready to be called upon in a game like Monday’s, why bring him up at all?
Anyway, it’s easy to second-guess after a game like Monday’s, but that’s what we do when September rolls around, a team is playing for a postseason spot and a lot is riding on every game. The A’s haven’t been in this situation for several years, and we’re seeing how much their fortunes can sway from one day to the next. …