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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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A’s: Jim Johnson has teammates’ respect in marathon win

Jim Johnson helped get the A's a win in 14 innings, even if he couldn't finish.

Jim Johnson helped get the A’s a win in 14 innings, even if he couldn’t finish.

There is no question that Jim Johnson hasn’t gotten much love in his first three months with the A’s.

Except from his teammates. They know what it’s like to struggle. They’ve all been there, and there hasn’t been any thought that Johnson hasn’t been doing everything he can to fight his way out of his struggles.

And the 2.1 innings of scoreless relief he threw Saturday was especially well thought of by the A’s.

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A’s: Doolittle’s numbers say it all; he should be an All-Star

A's closer Sean Doolittle is on a roll that should land him in the All-Star Game.

A’s closer Sean Doolittle is on a roll that should land him in the All-Star Game.

At his current rate of production, there doesn’t seem much that A’s closer Sean Doolittle can’t do.

If you’d like to do something Doolittle can’t or won’t do, just dwell on his statistics for a bit.

–He’s 11-for-12 in save opportunities.

–He has not allowed a run in his last 23 games, a total of 25.1 innings. It’s the longest active streak in the American League and fourth-best streak in A’s history.

–He’s walked 1 and struck out 53. No pitcher since 1900 had struck out 45 before issuing a second walk.

–He’s faced 64 batters since May 60 and has retired 60 of them, allowing three hits and one walk.

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A’s bullpen brings Star Wars Darth Vadar’s helmet into fold

Will the force be with the A's bullpen and it's Darth Vader helmet?

Will the force be with the A’s bullpen and it’s Darth Vader helmet?

If the A’s bullpen was looking for an identity, it may have found it with a little help from George Lucas, Darth Vader and Co.

Sitting in the clubhouse Tuesday was a full-sized green-and-gold helmet worn by villain deluxe Vader in the Star Wars franchise.

Speaking for the bullpen, A’s closer Sean Doolittle said “it’s going with us everywhere.’’

The helmet originally caught the eye of reliever Evan Scribner in spring training who saw an A’s fan carrying it. Scribner asked what it would take to get one, and eventually he and the fan worked out a deal.

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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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Johnson’s woes notwithstanding, help on way for A’s pen

Jim Johnson hasn't had close to the results he'd hoped for in coming to Oakland.

Jim Johnson hasn’t had close to the results he’d hoped for in coming to Oakland.

The A’s are one-third of the way through the 162-game season, and after 54 games, they have no idea what’s up with Jim Johnson.

The right-hander, a 50-saves man the last two seasons with the Orioles, has not found it in Oakland. His sinker isn’t sinking, and the flurry of ground balls that used to get him out of trouble are finding their way to the outfield in unprecedented numbers.

The A’s bullpen was supposed to be the bedrock of the club. Instead it has been the Achilles’ heel. Johnson (3-2, 6.55) is the most glaring problem, but he’s not the only issue. Luke Gregerson has good overall numbers (1-1, 2.70) but eight of the 13 base runners he’s inherited have scored.

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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 earns closer title even as he loses walkless streak

Sean Doolittle has earned the title of closer for the A's. He issue a rare walk, though.

Sean Doolittle has earned the title of closer for the A’s. He issue a rare walk, though.

The A’s have a closer. His name is Sean Doolittle

Doolittle threw the ninth inning Tuesday, finishing off the A’s 3-0 win over Tampa Bay.

It was Doolittle’s third save and just the eighth save overall for Oakland, which has struggled to find someone to pitch the ninth inning since the man they’d hoped would do the job, Jim Johnson, has not found success in the role.

“It’s pretty cool, I guess,’’ Doolittle said. “They’ve done a good job communication with us, so it’s not exactly a surprise when the phone rings in the bullpen.

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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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Reddick’s switch to `Careless Whisper’ proves a winner

Josh Reddick is as quick as anyone in the A’s clubhouse to change his walkup music.

He did it last night. And Careless Whisper by George Michael might be around for a while.

Reddick tripled home a run, walked and scored a run and dropped down a bunt single and scored in the A’s 5-4 win over the Chicago White Sox Monday.

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