When the A’s got Fernando Abad from the Nationals last year at the cost of minor league infielder John Wooten, it wasn’t an eyebrow-raising deal.
The results have been startling, however, and only in a good way for the A’s. Abad came into Sunday night with a 1.69 ERA, an opponents’ batting average of .167 and a 2-4 record.
More significantly, he has been a force coming out of the bullpen. He’s entered games with 23 men on base, and he hasn’t allowed any of them to score.
“He’s been incredible, and incredibly consistent for us all year,’’ manager Bob Melvin said. “The numbers speak exactly what he’s meant to us and what he’s done for us: the ERA, the inherited runners, to be able to strike a lefty out with guys on base.
“It’s exactly the role we envisioned for him, and he’s done better than we ever would have expected.’’
Abad, 28 said much of his success has come from making things as simple as possible. He said he comes in assuming the score is always 1-0.
It’s not like he doesn’t make mistakes. He has allowed four homers, but all of them have been solo shots. He doesn’t hurt himself by walking too many (13 in 48 innings), which is something of a turnaround from the 1-14 record and career 4.56 ERA he had before this season.
Abad credits reliever Rafael Soriano, with whom he spent bullpen time in 2013, for the turnaround. Soriano showed Abad how to throw a sinker for maximum effect, and it’s that pitch that has made him a strikeout threat and a force against both left- and right-handed batters.
“Soriano showed me how to throw the sinker,’’ Abad said. “I’m a 100 percent different pitcher now from two years ago because of that.’’
Coming into Sunday, Abad hadn’t allowed a run in his last nine appearances, a total of 7.2 innings. Since May 18 he’s thrown in 35 games, he allowed just four runs in 30 innings, a 1.20 ERA. All four of the runs have been on solo homers.
The sinker complements a 97-mph fastball and a 92-mph four-seamer, and he can throw a power curve and changeup as needed.