When you watch the A’s for any reasonable span of games, you get used to the fact that Grant Balfour doesn’t work particularly fast.
Sunday’s 27-minute, 37-pitch bottom of the ninth inning effort was unusual, even for Balfour.
He gave up a walk, an RBI double, then two more walks to load the bases before Jose Reyes grounded to second baseman Alberto Callaspo for the game’s final out.
“I was horrible today,’’ Balfour said. “I got the job done, but the guys were great.’’
Catcher Stephen Vogt, who was catching Balfour in a game for just the second time, made trip after trip to the mound to talk over the situation with the closer. At one point Balfour handed the ball to second base umpire Tim McClelland and asked the crew chief to rub the ball up for him.
Umpires do that before every game, but Balfour wasn’t able to get a grip on the balls he was being asked to throw.
“I think I’ve done that before,’’ Balfour said. “I couldn’t tell you when. Getting a grip on the ball was half the battle. When it’s slicker, it makes it more difficult. All balls get rubbed up, but these didn’t feel right.
The Rogers Centre crowd booed then, and they booed ritually louder each time Vogt went from the plate to the mound, but he seemed unfazed.
“We were talking about his slider and what he wanted to do,’’ Vogt said. “People were booing, but that’s OK. We needed to get on the same page.’’
Balfour said he got increasingly more frustrated as the inning went on.
“Yesterday was as easy a save as I’ve ever had,’’ he said. “Today I was fighting it.’’
–Callaspo is starting to feel ever more a part of the A’s.
Beginning the A’s portion of his career 0-for-10 didn’t do much for the veteran infielder, but he’s 5-for-14 with three doubles since then, including a two-run run that put the A’s ahead to stay Sunday.
“I’m starting to feel pretty good,’’ Callaspo said. “I just want to contribute.’’
Manager Bob Melvin said Callaspo has been an important addition to the club.
“That’s a huge hit for us right there,’’ Melvin said. “We’ve been looking for hits like that.’’
–Vogt made what he called one of the most difficult defensive plays of his career in the fourth inning when he caught a foul ball off the bat of former homer champion Jose Bautista.
Bautista was batting with the bases loaded and the Jays already holding a 1-0 lead. If he was to deliver a hit in that situation, the Jays would have been in position to put Oakland away early.
Instead, starter A.J. Griffin induced a towering pop fly behind the plate. The question was on which side of the netting would the ball land.
“I couldn’t tell,’’ Vogt said. “I couldn’t tell until it was in my glove. I actually hit the padding on the wall, and the netting is 6-8 inches behind it. The ball was in the sun, and I couldn’t see which side it was on. I just stuck out my glove.’’
The Jays thought that Vogt pushed the screen so that the ball wouldn’t graze it. If the ball had touched the screen it would have simply been a foul ball and Bautista would live to swing again.
“I think I did touch the screen to brace myself,’’ Vogt said, explaining that the netting comes down at a slight angle and “there’s no way it was going to touch it’’ once the ball passed in front of the top of the net.
–Brandon Moss would be just as happy if he didn’t see another knuckleball again this year. Or maybe any other year.
Moss jumped on a knuckler from Toronto’s R.A. Dickey and hammered it over the center field fence for his 18th homer, his first since July 23rd. But he’s not about to claim it was an easily repeatable act.
“The first time we faced him in Oakland (July 31) I thought I had a chance to hit the ball hard,’’ Moss said. “Today the knuckleball was entirely different, soft. Today I was just hoping.
“I saw the ball out of his hand and I swung where I thought the ball would be. And it was there.’’