Athletics

A's bullpen issues tied to Joakim Soria, Fernando Rodney’s slow starts

A's bullpen issues tied to Joakim Soria, Fernando Rodney’s slow starts

Entering the season, the A's bullpen was supposed to be a team strength. Instead, through 19 games, it has been a glaring weakness.

Oakland's 'pen blew a four-run lead Sunday at Texas, allowing five earned in just two innings, as the Rangers rallied for a stunning 8-7 victory. It was the A's third loss of the season when leading after seven innings. To put that in perspective, Oakland lost just two such games all of last year.

The root of the problem has been two high-paid veteran relievers: Joakim Soria and Fernando Rodney. Soria took the loss Sunday, his second of the season, after allowing four earned runs while recording only a single out.

"That's Soria's job to do it," A's manager Bob Melvin told reporters after the game. "He's one of our main guys. He just had a rough day."

Soria was the A's biggest free-agent signing of the offseason, as the 34-year-old right-hander received a two-year contract worth $15 million. In his first nine appearances, though, he has allowed nine earned runs in just 7 1/3 innings for an 11.05 ERA.

Rodney, 42, has been equally ineffective, surrendering eight earned runs in six innings, translating to a 12.00 ERA. Oakland elected to pick up his $5.25 million option this season rather than buy out his contract for $250,000.

Soria will earn $6.5 million this season, which means the A's are spending $11.75 million on the two veteran setup men. That's a significant amount of money, particularly for a franchise like the A's, which must maximize every dollar it spends.

Oakland was counting on both Soria and Rodney to be solid late-inning contributors. That vision has not yet come to fruition. Overall, the A's bullpen has an ERA of 4.39, more than a full run higher than last season's 3.37 mark.

Outside of Soria and Rodney, most of Oakland's relievers have performed well. The rest of the 'pen has an ERA of 2.72. Blake Treinen, Lou Trivino and Liam Hendriks have been outstanding, and Yusmeiro Petit and J.B. Wendelken have been mostly reliable.

[RELATED: A's set franchise record with seventh straight multi-homer game]

The A's probably are deep enough to overcome an ineffective Rodney, but the same cannot be said for Soria. Melvin made it clear he will not overwork Treinen and Trivino, which means he will continue to turn to Soria in the late innings.

The A's just have to hope the two-time All-Star returns to form. And soon.

A's bullpen struggles again, wastes Mike Fiers start in loss to Twins

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A's bullpen struggles again, wastes Mike Fiers start in loss to Twins

Mike Fiers left Thursday's game against the Minnesota Twins in line for his eighth consecutive win. Unfortunately for Fiers, the A's bullpen couldn't protect the lead for him.

That's become an unwelcome trend this season and continued in Thursday's 6-3 loss, as Oakland blew its 17th save of the season, third-most in the AL.

Yusmeiro Petit entered the game with two on and one out in the seventh inning and the A's leading 3-1. Minnesota's Eddie Rosario belted Petit's very first pitch over the right field wall for a three-run home run, and the Twins rallied back for the series-opening victory.

"It probably crept a little bit more towards the middle than he wanted it," A's manager Bob Melvin told reporters Thursday after the game. "But he's been a guy who's been doing (the job) for us in that situation all year. Every now and then you're going to give one up. Give (Rosario) credit. He put a good swing on it."

Fiers ended up with a no-decision and his win streak remains alive at seven. The right-hander delivered his 11th straight quality start, allowing three earned runs on six hits in 6 1/3 innings, with four strikeouts and four walks.

Fiers wasn't quite as sharp as he has been recently, but Fiers still found a way to limit the damage despite the many baserunners. He recorded the first out of the seventh inning, before allowing a double and a walk to put the tying runs on base.

At that point, Fiers had made 89 pitches and Melvin had a decision to make. Oakland's skipper elected to turn to his bullpen.

"It's a hot night, he's back out there again for the seventh inning, gives up a hit and a walk," Melvin explained. "So it's a situation where we usually bring (Petit) in. You've got to give Rosario credit. He hit a good pitch."

[RELATED: Optimistic Beane hopes A's are active at trade deadline]

Lou Trivino also had a rough night out of the A's bullpen, surrendering a pair of home runs in the eighth inning to give the Twins some insurance. Oakland's 'pen has only converted 56 percent of save opportunities this season, seventh-worst in the majors.

The A's bullpen has actually performed much better as of late, so perhaps this is just a minor hiccup. Oakland will try to even the series Friday night when they send Chris Bassitt to the mound.

A's vs. Twins lineups: Matt Chapman out, Chad Pinder to start at third

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A's vs. Twins lineups: Matt Chapman out, Chad Pinder to start at third

The A's will be without All-Star third baseman Matt Chapman as they take aim at their seventh straight win Thursday night in Minnesota.
 
Chapman left Wednesday's game after two innings with left ankle soreness and is considered day-to-day. He told reporters his absence is just precautionary and he should play on Friday.
 
"It just stiffened up on my throw across the diamond (in the top of the first) and then when I took that swing in the box (in the bottom of the first), it kind of just like caught, and then it didn't feel right," Chapman said after the game. "So it was more precautionary than anything."
 
Chad Pinder will fill in at third base and hit eighth in the order. Pinder homered in Wednesday's win, one of six A's home runs in the game. Jurickson Profar hit two homers of his own and will get another start at second base and bat seventh.
 
Designated hitter Khris Davis will hit sixth for the second straight game, with right fielder Mark Canha in the cleanup spot again. Canha notched his first career two-homer game on Wednesday.
 
Veteran right-hander Mike Fiers will be on the mound for Oakland, seeking his eighth straight win and 11th consecutive quality start. Fiers, 34, ranks second among American League starters with a 2.31 ERA since April 26. For the season, he is 9-3 with a 3.61 ERA.
 
Fiers is 6-1 with a 2.66 ERA in 12 career appearances against Minnesota, including 11 starts. Earlier this month, he allowed two runs (one earned) in six innings in a no-decision against the Twins.
 
Minnesota will counter with right-hander Kyle Gibson. The 31-year-old is 8-4 this season with a 4.03 ERA. In five career starts against the A's, he is 2-2 with a 3.81 ERA.
 
Here are the full lineups for the A's-Twins game, which will be broadcast on NBC Sports California and the MyTeams app. Coverage begins at 4:30 p.m. PT, with first pitch at 5:10.
 
Oakland A's (55-41)
Marcus Semien, SS
Robbie Grossman, LF
Matt Olson, 1B
Mark Canha, RF
Ramón Laureano, CF
Khris Davis, DH
Jurickson Profar, 2B
Chad Pinder, 3B
Josh Phegley, C

Mike Fiers, RHP (9-3, 3.61 ERA)
 
Minnesota Twins (58-36)
Max Kepler, CF
Mitch Garver, C
Nelson Cruz, DH
Marwin Gonzalez, LF
C.J. Cron, 1B
Luis Arraez, 2B
Miguel Sanó, 3B
Jake Cave, RF
Ehire Adrianza, SS
 
Kyle Gibson, RHP (8-4, 4.03 ERA)