Rangers' AL West title scribbled out by A's bullpen

October 4, 2012, 10:21 pm
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OAKLAND -- The A's winning the American League West was a shock to many. Rookie reliever Evan Scribner winning the AL West for the A's was a shock to all. After the Rangers rallied for five runs off starting pitcher A.J. Griffin in the third inning, he was pulled from the game with two outs. With the A's division championship hopes seemingly on life support, Scribner made like Dr. House, sans the limp and cane, and enacted his own form of special healing over three scoreless innings of work. Scribner earned just his second career win and easily the biggest one. He allowed just two hits, no walks, and struck out two Rangers. As Scribner applied the tourniquet, the A's rallied for six runs, and ended up scoring 11 unanswered en route to sweeping Texas. "Pitching in the biggest game of the year, the last game to clinch the pennant, and doing my job, I couldn't ask for anything more," Scribner said. "I didn't think that I was going to keep going out."But he did. He retired the final batter of the third inning. Pitched the fourth and the fifth as well. Then left with two outs in the sixth, thus bridging the gap for the big guns in the bullpen. "There was no bigger contributor than Evan Scribner," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "He's kind of silently been that type of contributor all year for us.""It's always about the players," general manager Billy Beane said. "But Bob's perfectly timed move with Scribner, and Scribner doing the job he did is really what turned this game around."Scribner is probably the most underrated player in a bullpen full of unsung heroes for the A's. Inside the clubhouse however, the work of the relievers has not been under-appreciated. Often referred to as the backbone of the team, they accumulated a 2.94 ERA and .209 opponents batting average this season -- both marks were the second best in the American League. Of Scribner's last 11 outings, 12 were scoreless. He is peaking at the perfect time for his team. He was 2-0 with a 2.55 ERA, 30 strikeouts and 12 walks in 35 13 innings for the A's this season. "Definitely a dream come true," Scribner said. "I remember this offseason I was just hoping to have another opportunity to make it to the big leagues again."After Scribner's effort, Jerry Blevins finished the sixth inning by striking out Josh Hamilton. The former American League MVP might consider changing leagues to avoid the A's lanky lefty. Hamilton is 0-for-7 with five strikeouts in his career against Blevins. Through six innings the A's knew it was time to send out their three-headed green monster. Ryan Cook, Sean Doolittle, and closer Grant Balfour. Only one problem...Cook and Balfour had pitched in five consecutive games, and Doolittle had appeared in four straight. A cringe-worthy notion in Melvin's mind. The A's leadership, however, had been assured they were available."I was worried about the bullpen and Bob and I were talking in the office and he goes 'Every one of them came up to me and said I was available,'" Beane said. "And I looked at him and I go, 'Really?' and he goes 'Yeah.' And I go 'Good.'" "Once we got close and we had those guys available," Beane added. "I think everybody in the back of our minds were thinking, 7-8-9, we've got Cook, Doolittle, Balfour." And available they were. They threw three scoreless innings to lock down the game, complete a historical surge to take the American League West after trailing by five games with nine to play, and started the postgame champagne celebration. After all, nothing was going to keep the "Mad Aussie" known as Grant Balfour out of the game. Even with a 12-5 lead heading into the ninth inning, telling the intense closer to sit this one out wasn't a safe idea. "Once you get here you are playing on adrenaline and you want to be out there and contribute to this," Melvin said. "I even tried to get Balfour to sit down in the ninth and he wouldn't do it." "I look up to Balfour a lot," Scribner said. "He knows what he is doing so well, and he is always so prepared and fired up to go in." After the final out Balfour was so fired up he turned a hose on the A's crowd. They loved every second of it. The team then took a victory lap around the warning track and saluted the fans. It's fitting that the bullpen, the backbone of the team, kept them upright when it was needed the most.

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