OAKLAND – The bullpen is rounding into form at a good time for the A’s, and it goes beyond the late-inning contingent that’s getting the job done.
As a unit, the relief corps has a 21 2/3 inning scoreless streak, and it’s posted a 0.56 ERA over the past 12 games.
On Tuesday night, four relievers combined for 3 1/3 perfect innings to close out a 3-0 victory over Tampa Bay.
“There’s a little bit of momentum there I feel like in the bullpen,” closer Sean Doolittle said. “There’s a lot of good vibes down there.”
Doolittle has been terrific since settling into the closer’s role in May, and Luke Gregerson has settled into the eighth-inning setup role behind him. But what makes the ‘pen more effective than ever is the addition of left-hander Eric O’Flaherty, who completed his return from Tommy John surgery in early July, and the recent dominant form of right-hander Ryan Cook.
O’Flaherty is an experienced addition who can get both lefties and righties out. Manager Bob Melvin said Cook’s form is reminiscient to when he was an All-Star in 2012. Opponents are hitting .105 off him during his current streak of 18 consecutive scoreless outings.
The depth of the bullpen allows Melvin to call on relief as early as the sixth inning and have effective options for the rest of the game.
“We knew at some point we’d really have to rely on these guys,” Melvin said. “We were scoring double-digit runs for a time there , but you knew at some point in time we’re not gonna score 10 runs every game. The bullpen’s gonna come into play and all those guys do. O’Flaherty gets a big out for us (Tuesday), and Cook has been absolutely fantastic for us.”
Note: Shortstop Jed Lowrie remained out of the lineup with a bruised right index finger, but Melvin said he’s likely to return for Thursday’s series opener against Minnesota.