When you’re going good, the deep fly balls are only deep enough when you hit them.
Just ask the A’s, who have hit five homers the last two nights in Chicago and who have emerged with a pair of one-run wins.
In each case, the White Sox tried to counter with a final-inning homer of their own off A’s closer Grant Balfour, but failed. On Thursday Yoenis Cespedes had his back to the left field wall when he caught what would have been a game-tying homer by Adam Dunn.
On Friday Josh Reddick, playing in doubles defense to keep any fly ball from getting between he and the fence, not only went to the fence, but jumped, extending his glove high enough to bring back a would-be game-tying ninth-inning homer by Conor Gillaspie.
“Off the bat, I thought it was gone,’’ reliever Ryan Cook said, having watched the inning unfold from the dugout. “I never saw anybody rob a home run so nonchalantly.’’
As for Balfour, whose streak of saves remains intact with 15 in succession to start the season, he admitted he was a little worried this time around.
“Last night I was more confident (the ball would be caught),’’ Balfour said. “But he was able to get to it. I was upset at myself; I felt I should have made a better pitch and put (Gillaspie) away.’’
No matter. As third baseman Josh Donaldson said of Reddick, “they don’t give Gold Gloves to just anybody.’’
Reddick said the A’s were playing in doubles defense, deep enough to try and cut off anything that might go for extra bases. Because of that he was closer to the fence than he might otherwise have been.
And that proved to be fortuitous.
“Off the bat, I thought the play was right to me,’’ he said. “I froze a little. Because I was playing so deep, there was no need to run to get there.’’
Part of Cook’s observation of nonchalance was the way Reddick caught the ball, came to earth, flipped the ball back to the infield and set up for the next batter.
“It’s not like I was going to stand there and beat my chest,’’ he said. “We still had one more out to go.’’
Coco Crisp caught that one, and the A’s had their 18th win in their last 21 games.
–The A’s last 21 games have seen them climb from seven game out of first place to a one-half game lead over the Texas Rangers.
And while the A’s aren’t ready to celebrate that, they should celebrate the strength of their starting pitching. Even with Brett Anderson out of the rotation, starters Jarrod Parker, Tommy Milone, A.J. Griffin, Bartolo Colon and Dan Straily have been on a huge run.
Eighteen of the last 21 games have seen the starters throw at least six innings. Thirteen times they’ve thrown at least seven innings. So the A’s aren’t having to put any undue stress on their bullpen.
“That’s been the key,’’ manager Bob Melvin said. “That what started us on our successful run.’’
During the 21-game spree, the starting pitchers have an ERA of just 2.58 and have allowed zero or one run 10 times.
“It’s fun right now,’’ Parker said. “We know it starts with us.’’