By John Hickey
Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013 at 11:27 pm in 2013 regular season.
There was no celebratory pie in the face for Dan Otero.
And he can live with that.
“The one who deserves that is Dino,’’ Otero said after Derek Norris’s three-run eighth-inning homer gave Otero his first big league win. “I’m just happy to contribute to the win.’’
Otero pitched a scoreless top of the eighth with the A’s facing a 7-5 deficit to the Chicago Cubs in the wake of one of the roughest starts (5.2 innings, 7 earned runs) of A.J. Griffin’s career.
That meant Otero was going to be just another hieroglyph in the box score until Josh Reddick’s two-out walk in the bottom of the eighth brought Norris to the plate with two out and two on.
“It was a great at-bat by Reddick just to get to that position,’’ Otero said. “Then all of a sudden, I’m thinking if he (Norris) pops one here, I’d be the winning pitcher.’’
Cubs’ reliever James Russell got two quick strikes before Norris worked the count even at 2-all. The next pitch sailed out to left center. Once Grant Balfour threw a scoreless ninth for his 20th save in 20 tries this season, Otero was in fact the winning pitcher. For the first time ever. Although he didn’t get pied for his efforts, he did get eight baseballs used in the game — “Good to give to the family as Christmas presents,” Otero said — and the official lineup card.
A one-time draftee of the San Francisco Giants, Otero went to camp with the Yankees this spring before being put on waivers and claimed by the A’s just a couple of days before the start of the season.
He was assigned to Triple-A Sacramento before being called up by the A’s on June 14. He wasn’t brought up to just fill out the roster and sit at the end of the bullpen. He’s appeared in eight of Oakland’s 16 games since with a 3.38 ERA.
Of those eight games, none will resonate as clearly as this one.
“It’s great to get that first win,’’ Otero said. “It’s great that the club goes into first place with it (one-half game up on the Rangers). It was an awesome ending.’’
The game wasn’t over when Norris homered, of course. The A’s still needed to get three more outs. It was time for Balfour, who has been a sure thing the first half of the season – and most of last season, too.
“I was in here watching the game on the couch with (Jerry) Blevins and (Coco) Crisp,’’ Otero said. “We just hung out and watched.’’
Otero didn’t know many of the A’s before coming up about three weeks ago. Now he feels like he knows them all. For a 28-year-old still trying to create a name for himself, it’s a good feeling.
“Almost immediately from the time I got here I had a good sense of this team,’’ Otero said. “From Day 1 they made me feel comfy.’’
And they are getting increasingly more comfortable with him on the mound, too.
Pie or no pie.