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A’s: Abad continues as the A’s secret weapon out of bullpen

A's lefty Fernando Abad has been perfect this year when it comes to stranding inherited base runners.

A’s lefty Fernando Abad has been perfect this year when it comes to stranding inherited base runners.

There may be no unsung hero on the A’s whose praises have been sung less than Fernando Abad.

The left-handed reliever has toiled mostly in anonymity while being just a part of one of the best bullpens in baseball.

The numbers he’s putting up this year are anything but the performance of just an anonymous reliever, however.

He came into Sunday’s game with one out in the seventh inning for starter Jason Hammel, who was in a jam with men at first at third and one out. It wasn’t an easy situation to face, but Abad has faced worse.

He threw an unhittable slider that foiled the Twins’ plan for a squeeze bunt in what was at the time a tie game, 1-1. Once the runner, Eduardo Nunez, was trapped for the inning’s second out, Abad then struck out Jordan Schafer for the final out.

   Neither of the two men he inherited from Hammel scored. And that’s not unusual. He’s now inherited 21 runners this season, and none of them has scored. No Major League reliever has that level of perfection.

“I don’t focus on the men on base, I focus on the hitter,’’ Abad said. “I know there are men on base, but I’m going for the punchout.’’

That’s not to say Abad is approaching his job without thinking. On the squeeze play with Schafer at the plate, fastball specialist Abad threw a slider.

“I throw that pitch, it tails away and he can’t bunt it,’’ Abad said. “I knew that’s what he wanted to do. If I throw a fastball there, maybe he beats me. But I was trying to think what they would do.’’

The 28-year-old Abad was a quiet pickup in the winter, brought over from the Nationals for minor league outfielder John Wooten, 23, who has yet to play above Class A. Abad’s performance has been anything but quiet.

In addition to his 0-for-21 stat with inherited runners, Abad owns a 1.76 ERA and has allowed just four runs since May 18, a total of 32 games covering 28 innings. All four runs have been solo homers. He’s struck out 42 batters in his 46 innings. And since May 18, his ERA is 1.29.

Small wonder then that Hammel, looking at the way Abad saved him a run, maybe two, said, Abad is owed “a steak dinner, for sure.’’

There are worse places than Kansas City, the A’s current stop for four days, to cash in on that.

John Hickey

Returning to the Oakland A's beat after a dozen years covering the Seattle Mariners. Covered the A's through the late 1980s and 1990s.