With the A’s leading the AL West with an American League best 24-15, A‘s fans can only wonder what the record – and lead in the standings – would be like had the bullpen been able to handle their task of holding leads and getting saves.
The bullpen is responsible for nearly half – seven – of the A’s 15 losses into just the seventh week of this 2014 campaign. In total they are a league worst 7 for 14 in save opportunities. Last night’s ninth inning near-debacle almost ruined a stellar performance by Jesse Chavez and put the chance for a sure win in jeopardy.
I do have to give credit to A’s reliever Sean Doolittle who came in to the adventure and shut down the White Sox last three batters with the tying runner on base. Doolittle earned his second save in a ninth inning that didn’t start off as a save situation
The A’s are currently riding a five-game win streak, but it could be six if not for last Wednesday’s cough-up by Luke Gregerson in the first game of the doubleheader against the Mariners. In that game last week, Dan Straily had outdueled Felix Hernandez in the first game, but the A’s could not hold a late lead as Robinson Cano tied the game with an RBI single off Gregerson in the eighth. Ryan Cook and Dan Otero flaked and gave up up the lead and the A’s lost a painful one in extra innings. You don’t knock out King Felix that often and when you surrender your lead and give the game back in extra frames, you’re just shining a heat lamp on bullpen ineffectiveness.
Reliever Luke Gregerson leads all of the majors blowing four saves in seven opportunities. His closing days are apparently over but even Doolittle who’s been successful lately is responsible for two of the A’s losses and has the second highest bullpen ERA of 3.60 next to Jim Johnson’s rising and hefty 4.96.
By the way – One way to stop the home fans from booing Johnson is not to bring him in to a close game. His ineffectiveness lately and the start of the season still has fans wondering if he was worth the cost. Though Monday’s run scored was just the second earned run allowed in his last 13 innings (the other cost the A’s a shutout in a 9-1 victory on Sunday, May 11), it was his seventh allowed in 10 appearances at home, where opponents are hitting .444 against him. (on the road, they’re batting just .194)
Fortunately A’s bats have come alive and are supporting outings by the starting pitchers with an average of five runs scored per game and a MLB leading differential of 1.59 over their opponents. Even in games where they’re behind, they’ve shown they’re not out of it with some impressive comeback victories as of late.