By John Hickey
Sunday, July 7th, 2013 at 4:52 pm in 2013 regular season.
Jesse Chavez has got to be in the mid-season running for the A’s unsung hero.
A journeyman pitcher six weeks shy of his 30th birthday, Chavez stepped in Sunday and pitched four shutout innings to cut off Kansas City’s attempt at a comeback, in the process earning his first big league save.
He took over with one run in, two men on base and the A’s up 8-3. He gave up a run charged to Jerry Blevins, but only because first base umpire Eric Cooper missed a call at first base. Chavez came off the mound quickly enough to take a feed from first baseman Brandon Moss, but he didn’t get the call and a run scored.
From that point on, though, nothing. He allowed three hits and a walk and didn’t allow a run, dropping his earned run average to 3.16.
It was Chavez, you will remember, who threw 5.2 shutout innings against the Yankees on June 13 to enable Oakland to beat New York in 18 innings, 3-2. In fact, if you throw out his first trip up with the A’s in April when he had a 6.23 ERA in three games, his ERA since is 2.67.
“Jesse has the perfect role on this ballclub,’’ right fielder Josh Reddick said. “Today was a perfect example of that. He really shut the door.’’
More than that, when lefty reliever Jerry Blevins stumbled in the sixth inning Chavez’s performance meant that the A’s didn’t burn through their bullpen heading into a tough series in Pittsburgh.
Manager Bob Melvin said “Jesse was huge for us.’’
Most saves are collected for pitching between one and three innings. Under the rules, however, if a pitcher closes out the game the way Chavez did, there’s room to give him a save.
“I wasn’t thinking about that when I came in the game,’’ Chavez said. “I was thinking about saving the bullpen.’’
And that he did, so it was a double save day for Chavez.
–A.J. Griffin is usually able to be compact with his pitches, but he was anything but Sunday in a five-inning stint against Kansas City in which he threw 105 pitches, and he knew the reason why.
“Foul balls,’’ he said. “There were a lot of foul balls. I tried to get the ball down in the strike zone, but I wound up throwing a lot of pitches.’’
The third inning was particularly problematic for Griffin, now 7-6 with a 3.94 ERA. By Griffin’s own estimate, three different Royals batters saw 10 pitches each from him.
So even though the A’s scored seven early runs on Griffin’s behalf, it was clear he wasn’t going to go deep into the game this time.
“I was happy just to stick around for five innings,’’ he said. “I was loose after five innings, but I was already at 105 pitches.’’