The A’s had been perfectly delighted with what Fernando Abad has done for them this season.
That level of respect skyrocketed Wednesday with the way he pitched the A’s out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam against Tampa Bay with the A’s clinging to a 3-2 lead over the Rays.
It’s true that Abad came in with men on first and third after Luke Gregerson gave up back-to-back hits with one out and walked pinch-hitter David DeJesus to load the bases. And it’s true that Abad induced an inning-ending double play from Yunel Escobar, leaving Sean Doolittle the one-run lead to protect in the ninth.
It’s also true that the A’s don’t fault the walk to DeJesus either at the time or after the game.
“It wasn’t an easy spot for him to come into,’’ catcher Derek Norris said. “DeJesus isn’t an easy guy to get out. And Abad threw him some great pitches.’’
From his position at first base, Brandon Moss couldn’t believe DeJesus could hold off at the pitches Abad was offering.
“He was throwing some great stuff to him,’’ Moss said. “But DeJesus is a good hitter, too.’’
Once the bases were loaded, “we did not need a strikeout, we needed a double play,’’ manager Bob Melvin said. And while Abad is a strikeout pitcher (19 in 19 innings this year), the left-hander knew the score.
Escobar swung at pitch where Abad jammed him. The result was a grounder to Nick Punto at shortstop that started the inning-ending double play.
“I think that’s going to be huge for his confidence,’’ Doolittle said. “He faced some dangerous hitters and got a huge double play. He’s been great for us all year.’’
Abad began the season pitching in the middle relief, but he’s moved into a setup role by allowed just seven hits and six walks in 19 innings over 21 games. That’s good for a 2.37 ERA.
“We have seen him do that all year for us,’’ manager Bob Melvin said.