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Homer cavalcade gnawing at A’s Sean Doolittle

Sean Doolittle is still looking for answers to the reasons underlying the three homer he's allowed already this season.

Sean Doolittle is still looking for answers to the reasons underlying the three homer he’s allowed already this season.

When Sean Doolittle gave up a two-run homer Tuesday night, he stayed at the coliseum late into Wednesday morning, watching video to see if he could find any flaws in his delivery.

All that with a day game on the Wednesday docket. Doolittle said he didn’t find much, “just little nitpicky things so minor you don’t know if they have any impact.’’

The A’s lefty closer didn’t get into another game until Friday. And it happened again, a ninth-inning homer, this time from a lefty hitter, the Royals Eric Hosmer. That one made for three homers in six games and 5.1 innings pitched for Doolittle, and it’s eating at him.

   It was just the 16th homer he’s allowed in a career dating back to 2012 and only the fifth homer hit off him by a left-handed batter. And it was crushed.

“That was an unbelievable piece of hitting,’’ catcher Stephen Vogt said. “Doo made a great pitch, up and in, fastball, which Hosmer doesn’t handle those. No one hits a ball like that out to center here, especially on a night like tonight.’’

Vogt said that to the media, but he also said a version of that same sentiment to Doolittle after the game. The reliever appreciates it, but that doesn’t ease the sting of all these homers.

“I heard what he had to say, and that’s nice,’’ Doolittle said. “It was his way of reminding me that I’m still executing my pitches. In normal circumstances, it would be easier to hear. There are times when you get beat and you just have to take your medicine.’’

For Doolittle, three doses of a particularly repugnant medicine is a bit much, although he seems willing to cede to Hosmer that the first baseman’s swing was top of its class.

“I don’t know that I would classify it as a mistake,’’ Doolittle said. “The earlier homers to Jimmy Rollins and Geovany Soto, they were mistakes in that they were in a bad spot. Last night, that wasn’t the case. The weird thing is I threw that same ball by him on the first pitch. Then I threw a pitch in the dirt that he chased. The ump didn’t call it a strike, but it was a good pitch because it had him chasing. Then I came back with the high fastball and he hit it out.

“I’m feeling healthy, my velo (velocity) is back and the ball is moving good. It’s weird, too, because each time, it’s been one pitch. The other pitches I threw last night did exactly what I wanted them to. I feel like I throwing too well for what’s happening to keep happening. You can always pitch better, but it seems to me I am pitching pretty well. What I could use now is maybe to catch a break or two.’’

Manager Bob Melvin was asked if he had any plans to change roles for Doolittle. He pointed out that he’s already used Doolittle in both the eighth inning as a setup man in addition to having him close. And the manager said he had not wanted to use Doolittle with the A’s behind Friday, but he felt he had to use him or risk burning out Ryan Dull, who’d thrown 1.1 innings Wednesday and again Friday.

“Last night was more out of necessity,’’ Melvin said. “I don’t think he’s throwing the ball poorly, he’s just given up a few home runs. I didn’t really want to bring him in with us behind, but we wanted to keep it there as far as the score was. Hosmer just put a good swing on it.’’

Doolittle said what he has to do now is to keep watching video, reading scouting reports and “try to find some answers.’’

“I’ll keep looking,’’ he said.  “It’s like a hitter in a slump; sometimes there’s that feeling that you’ll never see the light at the end of the tunnel. But I’m optimistic. My optimism comes from getting to the park early, doing my work and being ready to win.’’

 

John Hickey

A longtime baseball writer three years into in his second go-round covering to the Oakland A's beat after a dozen years covering the Seattle Mariners. Covered the A's through the late 1980s and 1990s.