A's follow simple formula to success

Melvin on Straily: 'You can tell he's got a lot more confidence'

A's follow simple formula to success
May 27, 2013, 7:00 pm
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Yoenis Cespedes gave the A's some insurance runs they would not need in a 4-1 win over the Giants. (USA TODAY IMAGES)

OAKLAND -- Looking for a reason the A's have been rolling of late?

Four straight wins. Nine of 10. Six games over .500 for the first time since April 20. A series-opening defeat of their cross-bay rivals.

"Today," said A's starter Dan Straily, "was kind of the formula for us, in a way."

Meaning quality starting pitching, accompanied by timely, if not opportunistic hitting and a lights-out bullpen. More often than not, you're going to get results. Positive results.

"In games like this," said A's manager Bob Melvin, "it's going to be close."

And such was the case in the A's 4-1 defeat of the Giants on Memorial Day before a sold-out crowd at the Coliseum that had a certain postseason feel to it.

"I didn't watch much of the playoffs," reliever Sean Doolittle said with a straight face, "but I heard the Giants won the World Series."

Indeed, but about that quality start mention -- over their last 10 games the A's starters are 6-1 with a 2.74 ERA.

Straily has been in the middle of that. After throwing seven shutout innings at Texas last week, the right-hander did not surrender a run until the sixth inning on Monday, his final inning of work.

"You can see in the early innings his confidence growing," Melvin said. "It all starts with getting ahead."

In the count, and on the scoreboard.

Added third baseman Josh Donaldson: "I was getting excited watching him run off the field. You could tell he was getting excited."

[RATTO: No more doubting Donaldson]

Doolittle said he could tell back in Texas how Straily was trying to establish a rhythm early, and that it continued in Oakland against the Giants.

At times, the mental aspect is tougher to control than the physical part. Which is why Straily took on a different, albeit simple perspective -- pitch to contact and trust his defense.

"If they hit it, they hit it," he said. "One strikeout in six innings? The defense is working.

"They're a free-swinging team. They can either do a lot of damage quickly, or get themselves out quickly."

The Nos 3-4-5-6 hitters for the Giants were a combined 0-for-15.

The 3-4-5 batters in the A's lineup were 3-9, with all four runs batted in.

Donaldson's fourth-inning two-run homer to right-center, on a 2-and-0, 89-mph offering from Madison Bumgarner, gave Straily room to breathe. It also came after a lead-off walk to Yoenis Cespedes. Yes, that's called opportunistic hitting.

"He was locating well early on," Donaldson said of Bumgarner. "He just got behind me…and wanted to challenge me."

Cespedes chimed in with the timely hitting aspect in the seventh off George Kontos.

With two out and on a 1-and-1 pitch, Cespedes went off the right-center wall, driving in Derek Norris and Chris Young to give the A's a 4-1 lead and more breathing room.

Consider this: with Cespedes in the lineup, the A's are a combined 107-60. WIthout him, they are 15-31.

"If you get through six (innings) with some sort of lead," Straily said, "you feel confident you're going to win the game."

Enter the third element -- the relief corps.

Having needed just eight pitches to get out of the seventh inning, lefty reliever Doolittle made quick work of the Giants in the eighth. And Grant Balfour closed things out in the ninth for his 29th consecutive save, dating to last season. It was his 11th this year.

It was quick. It was clean. It was the A's formula.

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