Before the A’s added two insurance runs in the eighth inning Wednesday, left-hander Drew Pomeranz was already warming up in the bullpen, ostensibly to protect a then-one-run lead in the ninth against the Dodgers. A’s manager Bob Melvin was asked afterward if that indicates Pomeranz is now the team’s closer.
“He was today,” Melvin said.
Pomeranz threw a perfect ninth inning to finish the A’s 5-2 win over the Dodgers for his second save of the season. Since moving from the starting rotation to the bullpen in June, the left-hander has a 2.17 ERA in 30 relief appearances, and has been one of the most reliable arms in an embattled A’s bullpen.
The A’s have not had a designated closer since they traded Tyler Clippard in late July. Melvin had said he would use Edward Mujica in the ninth inning, but Mujica blew his second save opportunity Aug. 9 against Houston, and has since pitched just twice – entering games in the seventh and fifth innings.
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Overall, there hasn’t been much need for a closer. The A’s have recorded just one save (by Mujica) since July 29. But when the need surfaced Wednesday, Melvin turned to Pomeranz with nobody else warming up in the bullpen.
Granted, the ninth inning Wednesday called for a left-hander, with the Dodgers sending lefties Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez up to start the inning. Pomeranz got both to fly out, then retired right-handed hitter Justin Turner on a pop-up to end the game.
Melvin has said in the past that Pomeranz is a valuable reliever because, with his starting experience, he’s used to facing both left- and right-handed hitters. That suits Pomeranz to a multiple-innings role – but also potentially to the ninth, where managers often turn the game over to one pitcher instead of playing matchups.
“We didn’t have a couple guys available today,” Melvin said of Pomeranz closing on Wednesday. “But we’ll go with what we think is the best matchup on a particular day.”
▪ Billy Burns said, as if it was a unique experience: “Last night, I didn’t see the ball very well off (Clayton) Kershaw.”
Not many hitters do see the reigning National League Cy Young winner very well. But after facing Kershaw several times in the A’s 5-4 win on Tuesday night, Burns said he changed his approach a little Wednesday against Dodgers left-hander Alex Wood.
“I kind of went in with the approach of: just try to see the ball, first and foremost, and react from there,” he said. “I felt like I saw it better today.”
Burns collected three hits – two off of Wood and a well-placed bunt single against Jim Johnson – and scored three runs, tipping his average back up to .295. He was right in the middle of every A’s scoring rally, also driving in Eric Sogard with a double in the sixth that tied the score 2-2. And he made a diving catch on Carl Crawford’s flare to center field leading off the ninth.
“He’s been in the middle of a lot this year, period,” Melvin said. “Recently he’s looked a little bit tired … looked like his bat was a little slow and he needed a day off. But these last two games he’s squared some balls up, had a big bunt today getting it by the pitcher. We’ve seen him do that quite often. When he’s on base, he creates a lot of havoc.”
Burns disputed the idea that he has worn down recently, despite batting .224 over his last 24 games entering Wednesday after hitting .310 in 69 games before that.
“Actually, I’ve felt pretty good the last two weeks, surprisingly,” Burns said. “I know I’ve played a lot this season, but I’ve been doing a lot of stuff in the training room just to prevent stuff, and I’ve actually felt pretty good the last few weeks.
“So I can’t really blame anything on that. I think I’ve just been off a little bit. And I don’t really know what the issue is, but been working through it.”
▪ Mark Canha was moved up to the No. 2 spot in the order and had two singles and a walk, a day after his first career four-hit game. In his last eight games, Canha is 15 for 34 (.441) with six RBIs, and it’s not a stretch to imagine him hitting second – a spot the A’s have shuffled players through all season – against left-handers going forward.
▪ Jesse Chavez’s strong outing is detailed here. For seven innings, the only hit he gave up was Jimmy Rollins’ two-run homer in the third inning. A’s pitchers have now allowed at least one home run in 14 consecutive games. That’s one shy of the Oakland-era record of 15, set from Aug. 6-21, 1987.
▪ Melvin said Wednesday morning was the rare occasion where his alarm clock actually woke him up. The A’s played a night game Tuesday after arriving home at 2:30 a.m. that morning from Baltimore, and it was a quick turnaround to Wednesday’s day game. But he expected to sleep well after the A’s swept a brief two-game series against the Dodgers.
“That was huge,” Melvin said. “It was not a great feeling (going 0-7 on the last trip) … I think winning the game last night made everybody a little bit more invigorated this morning. To be able to get a win today, we’ll finally be able to enjoy an off-day, which is good also.”
After the off-day, the A’s start a three-game series against the Rays on Friday. Here are the pitching probables:
Friday: RHP Chris Bassitt (1-4, 2.60) vs. LHP Drew Smyly (0-2, 4.35)
Saturday: RHP Sonny Gray (12-5, 2.04) vs. RHP Erasmo Ramirez (10-4, 3.57)
Sunday: RHP Kendall Graveman (6-9, 4.27) vs. RHP Jake Odorizzi (6-6, 3.02)