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 claim right-handed pitcher Parker Bridwell off waivers from Angels

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AP

A's claim right-handed pitcher Parker Bridwell off waivers from Angels

The A's added to their pitching staff by acquiring Parker Bridwell.

The team announced on Tuesday the 27-year-old had been claimed off of waivers from the Los Angeles Angels. This was the third time the right-handed pitcher had been claimed off of waivers since the end of the season. 

Last season, with the Halos, Bridwell posted a 17.55 ERA in 6.2 innings. Previously in 2017, he posted a 3.64 ERA in 121 innings.

He will add some pitching depth to the A's, and it appears that despite the numbers, his age shows he still has a healthy timeline left to prove he can bring something to the table. 

[RELATED: Daniel Mengden hopes for career year in 2019]

The ninth-round pick in the 2010 MLB Draft does not lack diversity which is what the A's seem to like. He's started 20 games and has made seven relief appearances. Perhaps the change of scenery could be of some success. 

A's 2019 projections: Team could rely heavily on pitcher Daniel Mengden

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USATSI

A's 2019 projections: Team could rely heavily on pitcher Daniel Mengden

Editor's note: Over the next few weeks, NBC Sports California will be analyzing a different A's player each day to project their numbers for next season.

Daniel Mengden has a golden opportunity in front of him this season. The 25-year-old right-hander will almost certainly earn a spot in the A's starting rotation out of spring training and will have a chance to remain there all year.

If the season started today, Mengden would likely slot in as Oakland's number two starter behind only veteran Mike Fiers. While the A's figure to add at least one more starting pitcher this offseason, they will still rely heavily on Mengden, especially in the first half of the season.

Mengden has shown flashes of brilliance in three Major League seasons but has lacked consistency. That was certainly the case last year when he posted a spectacular 1.51 ERA in the month of May but followed it up with an 11.57 ERA in June.

Overall last season, Mengden went 7-6 with a 4.05 ERA and 1.12 WHIP in 22 games, including 17 starts. For his career, he is 12-17 with a 4.64 ERA and 1.26 WHIP.

Mengden was demoted to Triple-A following his rough June but pitched well when he was recalled in August. In six appearances down the stretch, he compiled a 2.52 ERA.

When Mengden is at his best, he limits walks and induces ground balls. He runs into trouble when he falls behind in counts as he doesn't have overpowering stuff.

Baseball Reference projects Mengden to go 7-7 next season with a 4.08 ERA and 1.19 WHIP. They predict him to pitch 117 innings with 93 strikeouts and 34 walks.

We believe Mengden will put together the best season of his career. With three years under his belt, he has learned how to attack Major League hitters and should be comfortable in all situations.

[RELATED: Franklin Barreto could make impact in 2019]

Mengden has shown he can dominate big league hitters on a given night, recording complete game shutouts each of the last two seasons. The key for him in 2019 will be consistency.

Projection: 11-7, 3.71 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 104 K, 34 BB, 141 IP