Athletics

A's defend bullpenning decision despite season-ending loss to Yankees

A's defend bullpenning decision despite season-ending loss to Yankees

NEW YORK — There inevitably will be endless second-guessing of the A's decision to bullpen their way through the most important game of the season. That's just the nature of the business.

But bullpenning wasn't the reason for Oakland's 7-2 defeat Wednesday night at Yankee Stadium.

While Liam Hendriks got off to a rocky start as the opener in the American League Wild Card Game, relievers Lou Trivino and Shawn Kelley combined for four scoreless innings to keep the Yankees' lead at just 2-0 through five innings. Allowing just two runs in five innings to that offense, in that ballpark, was the best-case scenario for the A's.

Unfortunately, Oakland's bats went quiet at the wrong time, producing just two hits through the first seven scoreless innings.

“The first two batters obviously weren't the way I drew it up,” Hendriks said of his outing. “After that, I kind of settled down a little bit and got into a rhythm, and I was able to retire the next three. Unfortunately, the first two came back to bite us.”

Added A's manager Bob Melvin: “I thought after we got through the first and settled in a little bit, our at-bats would get better and we'd get back in it. We just didn't do it.”

[RATTO: Simple answer for A's is ...]

Keep in mind, the A's didn't just start bullpenning for the fun of it. They suffered seemingly endless injuries to their starting rotation during the season, and by October, had no starters left that they could trust in this game.

“It's not the ideal situation,” catcher Jonathan Lucroy acknowledged. “We were kind of forced to do it because of our lack of starting pitching, and our bullpen is our strength right now. We had to utilize our strength. ... Especially in a one-game playoff, you've got to roll your best guys out there.”

“It's tough to sit there and watch,” starting pitcher Mike Fiers admitted. “Everyone wants to play and contribute. But I'm not mad that I didn't get in. ... We went with our best guys, and they beat us.”

The recipe for success in this game always was going to be playing from ahead. With the Yankees' deep and talented bullpen, a comeback after the fifth inning would be nearly impossible.

Ultimately, the A's couldn't produce any run support for their pitchers until it was too late.

A's closer Liam Hendriks a finalist for AL Reliever of the Year award

liamhendriksseanmurphyusatsi.jpg
USATSI

A's closer Liam Hendriks a finalist for AL Reliever of the Year award

A's closer Liam Hendriks is one of three finalists for the Mariano Rivera American League Reliever of the Year Award.

Hendriks is joined by Astros closer Roberto Osuna and Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman. The NL finalists are Josh Hader, Will Smith, and Kirby Yates.

Hendriks, 30, enjoyed a breakout season in 2019, recording a 1.80 ERA and 0.96 WHIP. The right-hander notched 124 strikeouts in 85 innings, an A's franchise record for relievers, compared to just 21 walks.

Hendriks took over closing duties from Blake Treinen in the middle of the season and finished with 25 saves, along with eight holds. His 124 punchouts led AL relief pitchers and his 1.80 ERA ranked second among AL relievers with at least 40 innings.

Osuna posted a 2.63 ERA and 0.88 WHIP, with 73 strikeouts in 65 innings. Chapman finished with a 2.21 ERA and 1.11 WHIP, striking out 85 in 57 innings.

[RELATED: Hendriks' energy a big part of A's success]

The voting will be conducted by a panel of eight all-time great relief pitchers: Mariano Rivera, Trevor Hoffman, Dennis Eckersley, Rollie Fingers, Bruce Sutter, Lee Smith, John Franco, and Billy Wagner. Both the AL and NL awards will be presented on October 26, before Game 4 of the World Series.

Why A's should move on from Robbie Grossman in final arbitration year

grossmanusatsi.jpg
USATSI

Why A's should move on from Robbie Grossman in final arbitration year

Editor's note: Over the next two weeks, we will examine 10 A's players who may or may not return to Oakland next season. For each player, we will provide reasons why the A's should bring him back and reasons why they should not, followed by a final determination.

Robbie Grossman, OF

Contract: Final year of arbitration (projected to get $3.3 million after earning $2 million this season)

Reasons to bring him back

Grossman provides versatility as a switch-hitter who can play all three outfield positions. He also has a strong record of reaching base, maintaining a .351 on-base percentage throughout his career.

The A's lineup is extremely right-handed heavy and they could certainly use another left-handed bat, particularly in the outfield. For $3.3 million, Grossman could add some value as a fourth or fifth outfielder.

Reasons to let him go

Grossman is coming off his worst season since 2015, hitting just .240/.334/.348 with six home runs and 38 RBI in 138 games. The 30-year-old has never provided much power, averaging just six homers per season in his career, with a high of 11 in 2016.

Oakland already has a crowded outfield with Ramón Laureano, Mark Canha, Stephen Piscotty, and Chad Pinder. The A's also have Dustin Fowler, Skye Bolt, and Seth Brown awaiting their opportunity in the minor leagues. Grossman isn't necessarily an upgrade over any of those names.

Final verdict

Due to their excellent outfield depth, the A's should move on without Grossman in 2020. That $3.3 million could be better spent in other areas -- relief pitching, as an example.

[RELATED: A's stay or go candidate for 2020 season: Josh Phegley]

If Grossman were to return, he would almost certainly be a bench player, and as we've noted, Oakland has plenty of other options to fill those fourth and fifth outfielder roles for far less than $3.3 million.