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A’s may be in right, but probably won’t get protest upheld

Collision or obstruction? There is an excellent chance that the A’s and the Angels will play down to the final weekend of the season before deciding the American League West.

If that’s the case, I wouldn’t want to be umpire Greg Gibson, whose call against the A’s forced Oakland to play Thursday’s game under protest. If the protest isn’t upheld and the A’s finish one game behind, or even in a tie with, the Angels, Gibson will have had as much impact on the race as any player on either team.

The A’s see it as a potential win denied them, the Angels winning 4-3 in 10 innings. The A’s need all the wins they can get at this time of the season, and being denied one could be the difference between winning the division and advancing to a five-game division series or winning a wild card berth and having to win one game for the right to advance or be eliminated.

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Abad nothing but good coming out of A’s 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.

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.

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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.

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A’s: Bullpen is bullying opposing offenses these days

Ryan Cook is on a major roll, unscored upon in his last 18 games, pacing a red-hot a's bullpen.

Ryan Cook is on a major roll, unscored upon in his last 18 games, pacing a red-hot a’s bullpen.

In the middle of a tight pennant race there’s a tendency to look at the things that should be better than they are.

The things that are better than they should be can get glossed over.

That brings us to the A’s, who, it is true, have been struggling to score runs. And that’s an issue.

Equally a part of the equation, however, is just how difficult Oakland pitchers are at making it difficult for other teams to score.

Eric O’Flaherty, Ryan Cook, Luke Gregerson and Sean Doolittle combined to throw 3.1 perfect innings in relief of winning pitcher Jason Hammel Tuesday.

It’s just part of a bigger picture.

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Will A’s wait for O’Flaherty’s arrival for changes in bullpen?

Jim Johnson had another tough day coming out of the A's bullpen Saturday.

Jim Johnson had another tough day coming out of the A’s bullpen Saturday.

On Friday, Eric O’Flaherty threw an inning of scoreless baseball for Stockton in the California League.

On Saturday, Jim Johnson came in with a man on for Oakland in Baltimore and gave up a two-run homer on his second pitch.

What do those two events have in common?

The A’s are willing to give up on Johnson, who has not come close to being the pitcher he was with the Orioles when he had back-to-back 50-save seasons. It’s not like that was eons ago, either, it was in 2012 and 2013. It’s just 2014 (3-2 with a 6.46 ERA) that has been a problem.

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A’s level of respect for Abad continues to soar

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.

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Doolittle doesn’t let his guard down, saves the day

Sean Doolittle is back on a roll for A's.

Sean Doolittle is back on a roll for A’s.

It would have been easy for Sean Doolittle to figure he wasn’t going to get into Monday’s game.

Through eight innings, A’s starter Jesse Chavez had a 5-1 lead over the Chicago White Sox and he was going to get a chance for his first career complete game.

And if he wasn’t going to get the complete game, Chavez’s replacements were lined up to be Fernando Abad and Jim Johnson.

Doolittle said he never thought about not going through his whole preparation cycle starting in the sixth inning.

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Abad’s performance demands more significant innings

It wasn’t as if Fernando Abad had never faced David Ortiz before.

He’d faced him once when Abad was with an also-ran Houston team a few years back. He struck Ortiz out.

This time was different, though. This time he was pitching against the defending World Series champions and pitching for the team with the best record in the American League.

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Concerns over bullpen issues downplayed by A’s

Jim Johnson is the likely closer for the A's Sunday should one be needed.

Jim Johnson is the likely closer for the A’s Sunday should one be needed.

For a team that came into the season with the consensus best bullpen in the big leagues, the A’s have had more than their share of rocky moments in the first three weeks of the season.

Overall the base number isn’t bad, a cumulative 2.67 ERA, which ranks first among the American League bullpens. Nothing to complain about there.

But relievers have taken six of the club’s nine losses. The bullpen has more blown saves (six) than saves (five). And the man who had opened as the closer, Jim Johnson, is now in a closer-by-committee setup with Luke Gregerson and Sean Doolittle.

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Abad won’t remain A’s secret for long pitching like this

Two years ago, Fernando Abad was a little-known 28-year-old left-handed relief pitcher from the Dominican Republic trying to hang on in the big leagues.

He had a 1-11 record, a career 5.10 ERA and not particular prospects. He threw hard, but that wasn’t enough.

Then he and Rafael Soriano landed in the bullpen of the Washington Nationals at the same time in 2013. Soriano, who had closed for the Braves, the Rays and Tampa before landing in D.C., showed the then-28-year-old a few things.

“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.’’

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