The move was so by-the-book as to be automatic.
The A’s had a one-run lead in the ninth inning. Closer Grant Balfour was up and loose in the Oakland bullpen.
Balfour was coming into to close out Friday’s 9-8 win over the Rangers. The A’s got the win, but Balfour never left the bullpen. Instead, left-hander Sean Doolittle, who’d gotten out of the eighth inning with a bit of magic, pitched the ninth to get the save.
It was difficult to judge Balfour’s exact feelings on being left in the bullpen, but he was not in a talking mood after the game and his body language spelled out anger.
“Don’t ask me any questions,’’ Balfour said in waving me off.
Balfour is a competitor. It’s safe to assume he’d gone to whatever mental place closers go to when they know they’re coming into a game. But Doolittle had only thrown two pitches and manager Bob Melvin wanted to get more out of him than that.
“The reason I didn’t go to Balfour,’’ the manager said, “was that I’m not going to use Doolittle for just one batter. It’s difficult not to use our closer.’’
Melvin went on to say that this way he had Balfour available for Saturday after having thrown most of his most dependable bullpen arms – Jerry Blevins, Dan Otero, Brett Anderson, Jesse Chavez, Ryan Cook and Doolittle – to get the final 13 outs of the Friday the 13th game.
“This game had a Friday the Thirteen feel to it,’’ Melvin said.
Afterward, Balfour looked like he had some Friday the 13th angst building up. He apparently hadn’t heard Melvin’s explanation of how the final inning played out.
If that’s the case, it’s a sure bet that Melvin will talk to him before today’s second game of the series. The A’s are going to need Balfour directing his patented Rage at the Rangers, not internally.
–Was Texas base runner Alex Rios safe or out at third base in the eighth inning?
If he was safe, the Rangers’ six-inning would stay alive. If he was out, the A’s would have turned Texas away one run short of tying the game.
Third baseman Josh Donaldson had no doubt that Rios was out. Rios had a much different view of things, expressing himself so fervently that he got ejected by umpire Andy Fletcher, the man who made the “out’’ call.
“It was a perfect throw,’’ Donaldson said of the peg from left fielder Yoenis Cespedes. “I was able to put the tag on. He was out.’’
Doolittle, who gave up the hit to Adrian Beltre that led to Rios being thrown out, wasn’t quite as definitive.
“That was a close one, huh?’’ Doolittle said.
But when it was suggested that the A’s caught a break with Fletcher’s call, the lefty reliever said, “I don’t know about that.’’
One thing Rios should have considered: It’s generally bad form to make the last out of an inning at third base. If you are going to go, you’d better be safe. And Cespedes has one of the best arms of any left fielder in the game.
–Brett Anderson looked stiff and wooden when he delivered the last several pitches of his portion of the eighth inning, leading to speculation in the press box that perhaps he’d hurt his right foot again.
Anderson, who missed four months of the season to foot problems, doesn’t need that. And he apparently doesn’t have that. He came up with back spasms that surfaced while he pitching to Adrian Beltre, who would eventually draw a walk.
“My arm felt good,’’ he said, “but my back progressively got worse.’’
Anderson speculated that even though “I hydrated more tonight than I had in months,’’ he was cramping up because of the need for more liquids.
“It was one of those things,’’ he said. “I was having problems landing because of that. It may have looked like (foot problems), but the foot it fine. I’ve just got to get more water.’’
Anderson said he’s hopeful he’ll be ready to pitch in a day or two.
–Donaldson had a special person to show off for. His father, Levon, was in the stands to watch him for the first time in the third baseman’s career.
Dad saw quite a show. Donaldson walked and scored in the first, homered in the third, doubled home two runs in the fourth and walked in the fifth before finally striking out in the seventh.
In the process, Donaldson pushed his batting average back over .300 at .301 for the first time since July 26.
“It was a good first game for him to see,’’ Donaldson said, “at least for the first three hours.’’
The game lasted four hours, nine minutes. Father and son spent much of the pregame talking, and that talk resumed after the game.