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OAKLAND – Sean Doolittle says he doesn’t get too wrapped up in his own stats. That’s OK, because everyone else is, with good reason.
The A’s closer notched his ninth save in Wednesday’s 4-2 victory over the Texas Rangers and continues to solidify himself as the ninth-inning man for manager Bob Melvin.
In the process, he would appear to be putting himself in strong consideration for an All-Star invitation.
[REWIND: Gray's work on the mound speaks for him]
It’s tough to ignore the numbers Doolittle has been piling up. He turned in a 1-2-3 ninth Wednesday to run his streak to 20 outings without allowing a run. More staggering, Doolittle has piled up 48 strikeouts and just one walk. Going back further, he’s issued just one free pass in a regular-season game since Sept. 1 of last season.
That 48.00 strikeout-to-walk ratio for this season dwarfs the next major league reliever closest to him. Texas’ Joakim Soria was at 11.33 entering Wednesday’s play.
Like many relievers riding a hot streak, Doolittle would rather not make those statistics a regular topic of conversation. Asked if he tries to keep his mind off such numbers, Doolittle replied: “I try to ignore it, but it’s getting harder and harder.”
That’s because people are asking about it.
After a brief period of struggles earlier this season, Doolittle has been locked in and provided some stability to the A’s closer situation after Jim Johnson was removed from the role in April. Doolittle shared closing duties with Luke Gregerson for a period in a closer-by-committee type situation, but he’s since gone solo with the role and run with it.
The converted first baseman discussed the approach he takes to the mound.
“I hate walking people,” he said. “Having been a hitter in the past, I feel like I have a little bit of an idea how hard hitting is. I feel like if I make quality pitches rather than give him a free pass, then I give myself a great chance to have a good inning.”
And to think Doolittle is dominating right now primarily as a fastball pitcher. He’s worked to incorporate his slider and change-up into the mix, and he has more. But his bread and butter is working his mid-to-high 90’s fastball all over the zone and getting swings and misses.
“The last time (I caught him), I called changeup a couple times and a bunch of sliders. I made him pitch a little bit,” catcher John Jaso joked. “But for the most part, you can get by with just throwing down ol’ No. 1 and letting the high heater do its thing.”
[RECAP: A's 4, Rangers 2]
When it comes to other A’s garnering All-Star consideration, keep an eye on catcher Derek Norris’ situation. With Baltimore’s Matt Wieters undergoing season-ending elbow surgery, it potentially opens up an opportunity for Norris to sneak in and win the fan vote to be the American League starter.
When the last round of results were released Monday, Wieters was leading A.L. catchers with 1,488,884 votes. But Norris, in third place with 1,072,827 votes, trailed the Yankees’ Brian McCann by just 2,383 votes. So if Wieters starts to trail off as might happen due to his injury, Norris could find himself in a close race to start.
Amazingly, Norris is faring so well in voting as a platoon catcher. He’s hitting .313 with eight home runs and 34 RBI in 56 games (160 at-bats).