OAKLAND -– Bob Melvin’s game plan, much like his bullpen, was bare-bones for the nightcap of Wednesday’s doubleheader.
The A’s manager had starter Drew Pomeranz and relievers Dan Otero and Jim Johnson at his pitching disposal, with minor league call-up Arnold Leon in reserve if needed. That skeleton crew was handed the load and excelled in a 2-0 victory over the Seattle Mariners that helped the A’s avoid a four-game sweep.
Oakland’s bullpen was feeling the effects of recent heavy use, and the need to use five relievers in a 10-inning loss in Wednesday’s opener made the situation more dire.
“Three guys took over on the pitching end for us and came up huge,” Melvin said. “Basically we had three guys, and then Leon somewhere for length. They all knew it.”
Pomeranz, making his first major league start since July 22 of last season, was terrific. He covered five innings in 68 pitches, allowing just two hits with no walks and five strikeouts.
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The lefty has impressed in a long relief role so far this season. He came over from Colorado in the Brett Anderson trade with a 4-14 career record and 5.20 ERA, mostly as a starter. But the feeling is there’s untapped potential in his 6-foot-5 frame, and with the back of the A’s rotation having experienced some bumps this season, it will be interesting to see whether Pomeranz gets more chances in a starting role.
Melvin declined to address that in the immediate aftermath of the game, but he was impressed.
“I couldn’t have expected any more than that,” Melvin said. “He threw a few more changeups, mixed it up more. The two-seamer was working for him, good curve ball. It was pretty fantastic for a guy that hadn’t started a game for us, in spring or this season.”
Pomeranz carries a 1.45 ERA this season in nine appearances, eight in relief. He looks like a different pitcher than the one who mostly struggled in a Rockies uniform. Part of his success is he’s pitching strictly out of the stretch, which streamlines his mechanics. That’s led to another difference.
“I think it’s having a secondary pitch,” Pomeranz said. “I have my curve ball this year. I haven’t had my curve ball the last couple of years. Once you get predictable it’s hard to pitch well up here.”
Johnson entered in the ninth for his first save opportunity since being removed from the closer’s role April 10. He set down the Mariners in order for just his second save of 2014. Time will tell if he’s back as Oakland’s full-fledged closer, but Wednesday’s outing was big after he gave up four runs in Tuesday’s loss. The unsung hero was Otero, who threw three shutout innings to bridge the gap between Pomeranz and Johnson. Otero also pitched one-third of an inning in the first game.
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“As big as Pomeranz was for us today, definitely Otero was as well,” Melvin said.
The A’s can enjoy Thursday’s day off after avoiding the broom and also ending a six-game home losing streak, which was their longest since a six-gamer in September 2007. They actually broke through in Wednesday’s opener against longtime nemesis Felix Hernandez only to lose that game in extra innings.
“You don’t often get to Felix, especially us, and we end up giving it up. It’s pretty demoralizing,” Melvin said. “But you have to go out there for a second game. We didn’t score a whole lot but just enough.”