Fernando Rodriguez (33) pitched two hitless, walkless innings of relief for Sunday’s win.
In any city in either of the big leagues, there’s never a trouble differentiating between a winner’s clubhouse and a loser’s.
The winners get to play music. The loser’s don’t. And for the first seven game of this A’s just-completed swing through Houston, Milwaukee and Cincinnati, Oakland’s clubhouse’s silence qualified for library levels.
The music finally broke out Sunday in a 6-1 victory over the Reds that at least meant Oakland could fly back to the Bay Area with the solace of having won the finale.
Everybody takes part in the silence. Interviewees talk in hushed tones. Player-on-player conversations are muted. Mostly no one finds much of a reason to talk.
But not everybody is equally at fault for the losses. Yes, all of baseball, including the A’s, takes a win-as-a-team, lose-as-a-team approach to the game, but the reality is that some parts of the team are always going to be more culpable than others.
In the case of the A’s, members of the bullpen have pitched well enough to deserve music whenever they feel up to it. On Sunday, Fernando Rodriguez threw two scoreless innings followed by one each from John Axford, Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson.
Despite the A’s being 10 games under .500 at 26-36, that level of success is not new. In the final five games of the road trip, A’s relievers threw a combined 13.2 innings. Not only did the relievers not give up any runs, they only allowed one hit. The pen over that stretch inherited six runners. None of them scored.
On Sunday, the relievers brought the win home, allowing just one base runner.
Asked about the music, manager Bob Melvin deadpanned, “is that what that is?’’
Melvin said it was “miserable going home every night’’ during the losing streak. But given a 4-1 lead, the relievers made sure pitching on a very warm day was no impediment to a much-needed victory.
“Fernando was a rested as anybody we have in the bullpen,’’ Melvin said. “He’s been good with men on base, he’s been good against righties and lefties. I knew I could use him for two innings, then go to our guys we feel good about winning the game with.’’
The five innings without a hit – the only base runner was a hit batter from Rodriguez – was close to the A’s norm.
“We can do that,’’ Melvin said. “Probably our biggest strength on our team right now is the bullpen, particularly when we’re ahead. We just need to get a lead. We’ve had so many games when we’ve been behind.’’
Sunday, for once, the A’s weren’t behind. The relievers made sure that didn’t change.
And that, more than anything, was music for Melvin’s ears.