Dan Straily retired the first seven White Sox batters he faced and the last seven he faced.
In between, there were some rocky moments. But it’s fair to think that Straily’s role in the A’s 10-inning 5-4 win over Chicago could serve as a positive learning experience for the 24-year-old right-handed starter.
The Sox got him for three runs in the third, putting together four hits in the space of five batters. After Oakland had crept close at 3-2, the Sox added a run on an Alejandro De Aza single in the fifth and tried to add a second on a sacrifice fly.
But right fielder Josh Reddick was having none of that. He threw out Tyler Flowers at the plate with catcher Derek Norris surviving a forearm shiver to hold onto the ball. From that point on, the Sox didn’t get another base runner against Straily.
“I feel really good about the experience, about fighting through it,’’ Straily said. “In the past, that’s where I would give up one more hit, and I’m done.
“To be picked up that way by the defense is huge, Reddick with that throw and Norris hanging onto the ball after getting hit so hard. They enabled me to stay in and pitch seven innings, which didn’t look like it would happen.’’
Some of the credit goes to Straily himself. He’d shown his promise with a run of three consecutive starts in which he’d allowed a total of two runs in 19 innings. In those games, he had his best stuff going. Thursday he showed he has a chance to fight through things when he doesn’t have great stuff.
“I thought Straily did a great job, coming back the way he did,’’ closer Grant Balfour said. “He got behind, but he was able to bear down and keep us in the game.’’
–Speaking of Balfour, the closer has now gone 14-for-14 in save opportunities this year, making him just one of two American League closers without a blown save. (The other is Casey Janssen of the Blue Jays).
It appeared for a moment that might not be the case. With a runner on third and two out in the bottom of the 10th, Chicago cleanup hitter Adam Dunn hit a deep fly to left. The Sox faithful had hope, but Yoenis Cespedes caught it with his back to the wall.
“I didn’t think he’d gotten all of it,’’ Balfour said. “It was sort of in between. It was F-7 in the books.’’
Balfour wasn’t sure he was going to be in the game. He was leisurely throwing in the bullpen, not really throwing hard, when Adam Rosales crushed a two-out 10th-inning homer.
“I hear the guys say, `I think he got it! He got it!’’ Balfour said. “I really started throwing hard then. It was nice that Coco (Crisp, the next hitter) got on, but either way I was going to be ready.’’
Balfour has been a master at getting ready. In addition to his 14 saves this year, he has a streak of 32 saves without blowing one dating back to last season. That’s closing in on Dennis Eckersley’s club record of 36 saves in success from 1992 with Balfour saying “I hope I get there.’’
His teammates have similar thoughts.
“You have to admire the consistency of what he does,’’ Straily said of Balfour. “He just bolts the door. It’s quite impressive.’’
–Reddick was asked if he had to choose between his throwing out of a potential run at the plate in the bottom of the fifth and his game-tying homer in the top of the seventh, which way would he go.
He wanted to take them both, but in the end, he said the homer would lose out to the throw.
“The home run was important, but if we don’t get out of the fifth with just one run (it might not matter),’’ Reddick said. “Guys haven’t run on me much this year, so that was fun.’’
Manager Bob Melvin said that for him, “throwing out a run like that is the same as an RBI to me.’’ And that was a big RBI, keeping the game at 4-2 instead of 5-2 and maybe more.
As for the home run in the seventh, it was the first in 30 games for Reddick, who led the team with 32 homers last year but who has just two this year as he’s been playing hurt, when not on the disabled list, for much of the year.
“The home run felt great; it’s been like two months,’’ Reddick said.
–Melvin said he wasn’t going to shy away from using struggling Sean Doolittle as the setup man, and he gave the ball to Doolittle in a tie game in the eighth. Doolittle had allowed seven runs in his previous three games.
The left-hander gave up a one-out double, but he pitched back to form by putting together a shutout inning, going through two of the White Sox’s most dangerous hitters – Adam Dunn and Paul Konerko – with a man on second base to do it.
“To get out of that situation with Dunn and Konerko up there, I felt a whole lot of confidence,’’ Doolittle said.
He mixed in a few sliders to go with his 96-mph fastball. It was a slider on which Dun struck out. And it’s a pitch Doolittle has been working on perfecting.
“I’ve been working on the slider a lot,’’ he said. “It’s come a long way since last year. It helped that I’ve been watching all that video, working on my mechanics. I was too open delivering the ball, but not tonight.’’
–Yoenis Cespedes doesn’t seem to like to talk much about himself, but his teammates don’t have any problem talking about him.
And they should, because with a two-homer game Tuesday and another two-homer game Thursday, Cespedes seems to be breaking out of whatever slump he was in.
“Cespedes swings with such authority,’’ Reddick said. “He’s putting backspin on everything he hits. He hits the heck out of the ball.’’
It was a cool night in U.S. Cellular Field with the wind blowing in. The A’s hit four homers, three of them pulled. The one exception was Cespedes’ second homer, an opposite field shot in the sixth.
Melvin suggested there weren’t many with the power to hit the ball like that with conditions the way they were.
“It takes a strong man to hit it out the opposite way on a night like tonight,’’ the manager said.