Game 38 wrapup: Balfour shakes off the rust; Barton feels his power coming back

Grant Balfour has rung up a save in every game he’s pitched this month.

Before Saturday night, that meant both of them. Pitching for the first time in six days, Balfour put two men on but pitched out of trouble to secure the A’s 4-3 win over Seattle that brought a five-game losing streak to an end.

And if there is anything that underscores the problems the A’s are having these days, it’s that they had not been finding chances for Balfour to do his ninth-inning thing.

He hasn’t blown a save all year, but he only has six chances. Either the A’s are behind late, which has been the problem in recent days, or they’ve had more than a three-run lead, which was the case much of the time in a 16-12 April.

   “It is what it is,’’ Balfour said before Saturday’s game in his typically low-key style. “It’s frustrating that I haven’t pitched more lately. That means we haven’t had the lead, which is what you want, for the closer to pitch with the lead.

“You just have to deal with it. It’s definitely not ideal, but baseball is a crazy game. I don’t know how, but it always seems by the end of the season these kinds of things have evened out, so I have a feeling that these things (save opportunities) will come in bunches.’’

That’s what manager Bob Melvin is afraid of, sort of.

“When he pitches a lot, that means we’re ahead a lot,’’ Melvin said. “And that’s good. But as soon as you say that, you’ll get into a stretch where he pitches in three straight games and you don’t have hit for a game or two.

“This is a guy who wants to pitch. More than that, he wants to close it out.’’

What the A’s need is a game where they score early, control the game and give it to Balfour, who is not only 5-for-5 in saves this year but who has a streak of saves in 23 consecutive chances dating back over a year.

That’s what Balfour needs, too.

“Guys in this clubhouse need to step it up for us to get out of this,’’ Balfour said. “I’m one of them. I know I’ve got to get in some games. I’ve got to pitch.’’

Saturday gave him the chance. Was he feeling rusty?

No chance.

“Actually, I felt really good,’’ he said. More than that, “it’s a good feeling to win, for all of us.’’

It had been a while.


–Daric Barton doesn’t hit many homers.

He may be in a better spot to hit them now after two years in which he hit just one and lost his job at first base to Brandon Moss.

“I hit the ball good,’’ Barton said. “And I hit a good pitch. The biggest thing for me is that I feel healthy again and can put a good swing on an inside pitch.

“The last couple of years I’d been trying to force it. It all feels good now. I’m looking for good pitches to hit.’’

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.