More or less from the get go it appeared that this afternoon’s game against the Toronto Blue Jays was doomed, AJ Griffin had to leave the game with what was later revealed to be a bout with shoulder tightness with 2 outs in the 2nd inning. The already heavily taxed bullpen from Friday night’s 15 inning marathon was tasked with attempting to piece together 7.1 innings of baseball and for good measure was given 1 run of support from the offense. Ryan Cook came in for his 3rd straight day to try and lock down the 1-0 victory but surrendered the gut wrenching home run to David Cooper with 1 out in the 9th inning. Cook would retire the side thereafter, but the A’s would not be able to cash in on any opportunities to win the game and the Blue Jays would break through in the 11th and ultimately take the game.
Considering the circumstances that played out during today’s game with Griffin’s injury (the MRI showed no damage so hopefully he’s not out for an extended period) this was a game that the A’s really didn’t seem to have any business winning in the first place. But the fact that they were in a position to steal this game and failed to do so is most concerning.
At this point while the bullpen is showing some serious talent, there are some major leaks in the boat that are revealing themselves. First and foremost the closer situation which many thought had been resolved for the season when Ryan Cook was promoted to closer has become a major uncertainty yet again. At this point though it’s not clear whether Cook has simply hit a rough patch, or he’s tipping pitches somehow, or maybe he’s just a little worn out. It is well known that in MLB it is crucial to make adjustments constantly as the league makes adjustments to you, its certainly possible the league has figured something out with Cook. The point is that the A’s have had some trouble at the end of games lately, and Billy Beane needs to make a decision as to whether the bullpen as currently constructed is good enough to keep this team in the race.
The A’s were thought to be interested in Rafael Betancourt prior to the July 31 trade deadline, it would seem possible that a waiver deal could be struck with the Rockies this month. The A’s already plucked sidewinding righty Pat Neshek from the Orioles in a minor league transaction, but he’s a part of the solution, not the whole solution. Aside from Betancourt possibly, it’s hard to find many relievers who could be an impact late inning weapon for the A’s. Perhaps someone like the Miami Marlins Heath Bell could be of interest as I’m sure the Marlins would be eager to unload Bell after his disastrous first year in South Beach. Ofcourse the finances are not appealing to the A’s as Bell is owed $9 million each of the next two seasons. But perhaps the Marlins would be willing to foot the bill for a portion of the contract just to get Bell out of their hair. He’s not by any means a perfect addition, but perhaps he’s a strong change of scenery candidate for improvement.
The A’s need to be very careful about wearing down a strong bullpen core that they have built for now and for the future. Sean Doolittle has never faced a workload like this, and his sharp decline in velocity is alarming and perhaps a sign that he’s hitting a wall. Ryan Cook has blown 4 of his last 5 save chances, and while the A’s are in a pennant race this is not the time to sit back and watch him work out his issues on the mound. Or else the A’s might not be in a pennant race at all.