By John Hickey
Friday, September 20th, 2013 at 12:20 am in 2013 regular season.
There’s a tendency to jump on a player when he’s down that pervades all sports. Baseball is no different in that regard.
A’s reliever Ryan Cook is in a bad slump, no doubt about it.
But sometimes it’s not bad pitching as much as it is bad luck.
Cook was asked to preserve a 6-4 lead in the eighth inning Thursday. He gave up two hits and a walk, allowed two runs and left after getting just one out.
Neither of the hits was crushed. The second, in fact, was a chopper that simply conspired with time and space to come down in an area down the right field line where no one was going to be able to field it.
It’s not the first time in recent games that’s happened to Cook. Bad luck exists.
Admittedly with Cook, bad luck is only part of the equation. In his last dozen games he’s thrown just 7.2 innings and he’s allowed 20 hits. He’s not pitching well. But for this night, even with Cook knocked out of the box early, if you talked to the A’s privately, they suggested this was a step forward.
And the A’s need Cook. He throws hard. He’s durable. And, recent games notwithstanding, he’s been one of the best relievers in the game.
Manager Bob Melvin isn’t giving Cook marshmallow assignments. He brought Cook into Thursday game because the matchups called for the A’s to go to their right-handed setup man.
“Obviously Cookie hasn’t been as good as we’ve normally seen him,’’ Melvin said. “But I’m fine with my guys. There’s going to be periods of struggle.’’
Doolittle, for example, had a 6.75 ERA in August, and there were times where he looked lost on the mound. Melvin stuck with him and he’s back at the top of his game. He’s allowed one run in September, has a 0.90 ERA for the month and has a win and two saves in eight games.
Cook basically is the right-handed version of left-handed Doolittle. The A’s need Cook as much as they need Doolittle, so look for Melvin to keep going to the right-hander to see if he can get him headed in the right direction.
One lucky bounce would be a good place to start.
–Dan Straily is doing what he can to make a bid for a spot in the post-season Oakland starting rotation.
He allowed three runs, two earned, in 5.2 innings Thursday and when he had a chance to blow up in the fifth inning with the bases loaded and just one out, he put away the top of the Twins’ batting order.
The A’s have a 16-game winner in Bartolo Colon, a 14-game winner in A.J. Griffin and an 11-game winner in Jarrod Parker, who has one loss since May. Straily has 10 wins, and arguably is pitching as well as any of them right now. There’s no guarantee he’ll get to start in the playoffs, assuming the A’s get there, but he’s at least got to be in the conversation.
Straily threw a career-high 105 pitches Thursday, which is, Melvin said, the only reason Straily came out of the game in the sixth inning. When Straily left the game, he had a 2-1 lead.
That’s part of a pattern. In his last five starts he’s 4-0 and his ERA over that stretch is 2.15.
“It was another good game for him,’’ Melvin said. “It was more the 105 pitches than anything that we took him out.’’
Straily said he felt strong even at that, but he knew he wasn’t going to get many more pitches than that.
“I had a good slider tonight,’’ he said. “And I was able to keep the ball down. I didn’t want to come out, you always want to finish what you start, but that’s a lot (of pitches).’’