Athletics

How A's J.B. Wendelken has earned Bob Melvin's trust in big situations

How A's J.B. Wendelken has earned Bob Melvin's trust in big situations

OAKLAND -- The A's have been searching for a reliable eighth-inning relief option for essentially the entire season. They might have found one potential answer in 26-year-old J.B. Wendelken.

The hard-throwing right-hander was terrific last season, allowing just one run in 16 2/3 innings, with 14 strikeouts. But after a slow start in 2019, Wendelken was optioned to Triple-A Las Vegas, where he has spent most of this year.

Since returning to the A's earlier this month, Wendelken has pitched five perfect innings. That's right -- 15 up, 15 down.

"I've been feeling really good," Wendelken told NBC Sports California. "It's a little bit of an adjustment period, but that's the way it always is. I'm just coming in and giving the guys a chance to get ahead. That's all you can do out of the pen."

It appears Wendelken has already earned his manager's trust. On multiple occasions, Bob Melvin has utilized the young right-hander in late-inning, high-leverage situations.

"We've always felt like he was a guy that we could count on," Melvin said. "It's nice to have him here and he's pitched really well for us, so hopefully, he can gain some confidence from that."

"It's super exciting. It's one of those things where they put your faith in you and you have to step up," Wendelken said. "It's an adrenaline rush, but at the same time, it could be overwhelming. We all have a job to do. All we can do is go in there and be hard-nosed."

Throughout his career, Wendelken has relied on his mid-to-high 90s fastball, only occasionally mixing in a changeup and curveball. But during his time in Triple-A, he began developing a slider. 

"It's come a long way," Wendelken said. "It took a while to even get a swing and a miss. That was the big thing. We kind of laughed about it. In two months there (in Las Vegas), I didn't even get one swing and miss on it. I'm finally getting a little turnaround on it, so it's good to see some movement and some swings and misses."

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As the A's make their final playoff push, they will continue to rely on Wendelken in the late innings. If he can maintain his effectiveness, it will go a long way toward putting Oakland over the top.

A's spoil historic nine-game winning streak with wild loss vs. Angels

A's spoil historic nine-game winning streak with wild loss vs. Angels

The A’s magical month of August finally fell back to earth on Monday night.

Riding a nine-game win streak entering the first game of their series against the Los Angeles Angels, the A’s blew a four-run lead and lost 10-9.

A win for the A’s would have given Oakland a 10-game win streak, which when prorated over a standard 162-game season, would have been the equivalent of a 27-game win streak. The MLB record was set by the 1916 New York Giants at 26, while the 2017 Cleveland Indians own the AL’s best-ever win streak at 22 games.

[BALK TALK: Listen to the latest episode]

The Angels jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first inning, but Oakland roared back on the strength of two home runs by Matt Chapman, as the A’s led 9-4 after the top of the fourth inning. Chapman also cleared the bases in that inning with a triple, producing six RBI overall in the losing effort.

But three-time AL MVP Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani brought some power of their own, as a Trout homer in the fourth and an Ohtani bomb in the sixth brought the Angels even at nine.

The A’s bats went quiet down the stretch of the game after a strong start, and Trout gave the Angels the lead with a towering solo home run off Yusmeiro Petit in the bottom of the eighth.

[RELATED: Melvin pins blame for A's-Astros brawl on Houston coach]

Southpaw Sean Manaea struggled mightily against the potent Angels lineup, surrendering four runs on seven hits in just two and two-thirds of an inning before manager Bob Melvin went to the bullpen.

"I didn't think his stuff was bad, I think he's just got to fight through this right now," Melvin told reporters after the loss.

After an emotional weekend series against the rival Houston Astros, including a benches-clearing brawl Sunday that likely will be resulting in some discipline for outfielder Ramón Laureano, the A's couldn't sustain a strong start and see their winning streak end at nine games.

Oakland still leads the AL West by 4.5 games over the Astros, who've won the division in each of the past two seasons.

Mike Fiers will be on the bump Tuesday against Angels pitcher Dylan Bundy as Oakland looks to get back in the win column. 

Watch A's red-hot slugger Matt Chapman crush two home runs vs. Angels

Watch A's red-hot slugger Matt Chapman crush two home runs vs. Angels

Matt Chapman is on a tear.

After the Los Angeles Angels took an early 3-0 lead in the first inning of Monday's game against the A's, the third baseman turned on a pitch from starter Julio Teheran to put the A's on the board with a solo home run to lead off the second inning.

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It was Chapman's third consecutive game with a home run. But the star wasn't done there, as he absolutely crushed a pitch from Teheran in his next at-bat that flew well over center fielder Mike Trout's head.

His second blast gave the A's a 5-3 lead in the third inning.

Chapman still wasn't done. In the top of the fourth inning, he came up with the bases loaded and drove in all three runners with a triple to right-center to give the A's an 8-4 lead.

Chapman so far Monday night is 3-for-3 with two homers, a triple and six RBI.

[BALK TALK: Listen to the latest episode]