Athletics

Liam Hendriks rebounds, breaks Rollie Fingers' A's strikeout record

Liam Hendriks rebounds, breaks Rollie Fingers' A's strikeout record

OAKLAND -- One of baseball's most common clichés is that relief pitchers need to have a short memory. A's closer Liam Hendriks has a slightly different variation of that rule.

"I don't know if it's a short memory or just have a really bad memory," he joked Tuesday.

Hendriks suffered a rare blown save in Monday's loss to the Kansas City Royals but bounced back with a dominant ninth inning Tuesday night, as the A's picked up a 2-1 win. 

"I spoke to my wife about it last night," Hendriks told NBC Sports California. "Everything felt good, but it didn't feel good, if that makes any sense. My ball felt light, and that's abnormal for me when I'm going out there.

"But I worked on it a little bit today, made sure I got my legs under me a little bit, and the results were there. I was able to throw some good breaking balls when I needed to and kept them off balance enough where, if I left a fastball in a bad spot, they were able to miss it because I had set them up."

Added A's manager Bob Melvin: "It's very rare when Liam blows a save. He's been great for us all year. So it was good to get him right back in there."

Hendriks set the Royals down in order in the ninth, recording a pair of strikeouts to give him 118 for the season, with 116 coming as a reliever. That broke the A's record for strikeouts by a relief pitcher, previously held by Hall of Famer Rollie Fingers, who had 115 in 1975.

"It was cool," Hendriks said. "It's not something I started the year out after, but as it kept getting closer, I was a little bit aware of it. ... Anytime you get talked about in the same sentence as Rollie Fingers, it's a pretty big deal. I'm just happy to bounce back from last night. Obviously, last night wasn't the best situation for me, but I came back and had that vigor again and was able to put it to bed."

[RELATED: How A's Wendelken has earned Melvin's trust in big spots]

Hendriks has enjoyed a breakout season at the age of 30. The right-hander is 4-3 with 23 saves and a 1.66 ERA with those 118 strikeouts in 81 1/3 innings.

"(The strikeout) is his biggest weapon," Melvin said. "It gets him out of jams with guys on base. He's got a much better slider to keep them off his fastball. His fastball (velocity) is the best it's been in his career. But I think that the command of his breaking ball allows his fastball to play up and he's been striking guys out all year."

With all of the bullpen struggles Oakland has experienced this season, Hendriks has been a godsend. His ninth-inning dominance has allowed the A's to remain in the driver's seat for a second straight postseason berth.

Watch A's pitcher Jesus Luzardo get fans hyped for 2020 MLB season

Watch A's pitcher Jesus Luzardo get fans hyped for 2020 MLB season

As if A’s fans already weren’t excited for the 2020 MLB season.

Young pitcher Jesus Luzardo released a hype video Sunday that will have Oakland fans salivating.

[RELATED: A's say they deferred Coliseum rent payment for lack of use during coronavirus]

Luzardo has been one of the A’s top prospects for several years, and made his MLB debut on Sept. 11, 2019. The 22-year-old made six relief appearances for Oakland last season, finishing with a 1.50 ERA in 12 innings, striking out 16 batters.

Luzardo is expected to be in Oakland’s rotation whenever the 2020 season gets underway.

Why Rickey Henderson should be seen as one of Michael Jordans of MLB

Why Rickey Henderson should be seen as one of Michael Jordans of MLB

There will never be another Michael Jordan. But there could be those who hold a prominent role in the sport they play. The “Michael Jordan” of baseball, for instance. 

Bleacher Report composed a list of MLB’s G.O.A.T.s, and yes -- Los Angeles Angels superstar Mike Trout was mentioned. You can’t create a greatest of all time without mentioning him, but the A’s have an MJ of their own in Rickey Henderson.

Not only did the BR writeup mention the numbers that put the Man of Steal on the map (1,406 stolen bases, 2,295 runs, both MLB records), but it’s a great reminder of his “greatest of all-time speech.”

That iconic moment wasn’t initially supposed to happen in the way it played out. When he took the microphone after breaking St. Louis Cardinals star Lou Brock’s base-stealing record, Henderson went off-script

The original hand-written speech that was folded up on a piece of paper, and in Rickey's uniform didn’t happen, and it certainly didn’t possess the words saying he was the greatest -- even though the Hall of Famer was. He was caught up in the moment and said the epic words which solidified such a strong career.

[RELATED: Veteran pitcher Bartolo Colon still wants to play]

Henderson simply forgot about the original words.

Henderson also had a certain swag and attitude about him -- remind you of anyone else?