It wasn’t as if Fernando Abad had never faced David Ortiz before.
He’d faced him once when Abad was with an also-ran Houston team a few years back. He struck Ortiz out.
This time was different, though. This time he was pitching against the defending World Series champions and pitching for the team with the best record in the American League.
Abad, asked to face the Red Sox’s legendarily clutch designated hitter in the fifth inning with the A’s down a run and Boston having men at second and third, struck Ortiz out again.
He then walked Mike Napoli intentionally before ending the inning and keeping the game close by striking out Grady Sizemore.
“That was a big matchup,’’ Abad said. “David Ortiz is a great hitter. You have to make great pitches to him.
“That was very special.’’
Abad’s top-to-bottom performance this year has been special. The left-hander has thrown 12 games in relief, a total of 11.2 innings and has struck out 14 while giving up now runs.
He’s allowed two hits, three walks (one intentional) and hitting a batter (semi-intentional it seems since it came in the ninth inning last Thursday after the A’s Brandon Moss had been hit twice in the top of the inning).
The A’s motto has long been that the better you perform, the more you play, and you have to think at this point that Abad is forcing himself in to ever more important roles pitching out of the bullpen.