Bullpen proving to be backbone of early A’s success

The one facet of the A’s game that has been almost unswervingly productive this season is one facet that tends to get overlooked.

It’s the bullpen, which comes into Sunday against the Tigers with a 1.64 ERA that is far and away better than the (but still very good) 2.08 turned in the by the White Sox. The A’s are one of four teams whose relievers haven’t lost a game (2-0).

    Three of the relievers, Jerry Blevins, Sean Doolittle and Chris Resop, have yet to give up a run and three others have sub-2.50 ERAs (Ryan Cook at 1.69, Grant Balfour at 2.50 and Evan Scribner at 2.45).

What it’s meant to manager Bob Melvin is that he doesn’t have to hold off dipping into the 3bullpen whenever a starter struggles. The A’s saw that from the other side in Anaheim on the last road trip when the Angels’ bullpen was simply incendiary, giving up 13 runs in three games.

A’s relievers have allowed just nine runs (seven earned) in the first dozen games.

Those numbers are one thing. But there are numbers within numbers. Three times Melvin has gone to the bullpen with the bases loaded, and three times the relievers (Resop twice and Scribner once) have not allowed a run to score.

In all, the bullpen has inherited 17 runners, and only five of those have scored. One of those came on a sacrifice fly and one crossed the plate thanks to an error.

Melvin said he’s still trying to be careful with his bullpen – “we don’t want to run anyone out there three days in a row yet,’’ he said Sunday morning – but acknowledges that the league-leading ERA from the bullpen has lots to do with Oakland’s American League-best 9-3 record.

For the record, the A’s starters haven’t been shabby. The rotation’s 3.96 ERA is sixth-best in the AL, and only three times in the 12 games have the starters given up more than three runs in a game.

John Hickey

A longtime baseball writer three years into in his second go-round covering to the Oakland A's beat after a dozen years covering the Seattle Mariners. Covered the A's through the late 1980s and 1990s.