Athletics

Presented By rayratto
Athletics

OAKLAND -- In what is now a 10-game season for the Oakland Athletics, every game not started by Mike Fiers, Edwin Jackson or Bull J. Pen is essentially a mini-referendum on how manager Bob Melvin decides to set his postseason pitching rotation.
 
Or, to use Melvin’s words after the A’s 10-0 dance party over the Los Angeles Angels on Tuesday, “We’re obviously going to need more than just the two guys, so yeah, I guess you can put it that way.”
 
And then he knocked on the dry wall he was leaning against in the A’s clubhouse to ward off bad juju. The A’s aren’t a playoff team yet, and superstitious old goat that he is, Melvin never leaves anything available for hexing.
 
“That is,” he said, “if we get in.”
 
Enter Brett Anderson, throwing nothing but sliders and sinkers and becoming the first A’s starter in almost a month to reach, let alone get an out, in the seventh inning. In limiting the Angels to three harmless singles and forcing them to pound 12 ground-ball outs, Anderson left an impression that both he and his manager hopes can linger awhile, if only to minimize the temptation to bullpen a playoff game.
 
Knock dry-wall.
 
“It was good to be a reason we were winning instead of a reason we were losing,” Anderson said, referencing his skittish start in Baltimore against the laughable Orioles a week ago. “Tonight, it was pretty much just having early control and quick outs.”
 
And a six-run fourth inning doesn’t hurt, either. Two two-run doubles by Jed Lowrie and Stephen Piscotty jumped Angels starter Felix Pena, followed up an inning later by Piscotty’s three-run homer off Parker Bridwell, gave Anderson all the cover he could have wanted, and the rest was him showing Melvin that he can be a trustworthy part of a playoff rotation.
 
Knock dry-wall.
 
“It’s been hard (to extend starters into a third swing through the opposition order) the way we’re set up,” Melvin said, “but Brett was just so efficient tonight. I think he threw two breaking balls the whole night, and I thought he had a pretty good one in the bullpen.”
 
Pitching coach Scott Emerson thought it might have been three, and Anderson barely remembers any. But the two pitches Anderson did favor were more than plenty to stop the trickle of blood caused by a three-game losing streak and the refusals of either the New York Yankees or Tampa Bay Rays to lose when the A’s need them to do so the most.
 
As it was, the A’s whittled one unit off their magic number for clinching a playoff by taking matters into their own hands, and moved back to four behind Houston, which lost to Seattle. Thus, the earliest they can clinch their place in October would be Saturday, and that presumes that the Rays will ever lose again, which in their present state may simply be too much to conceive.
 
So let’s just say that the A’s will have to do what must be done without the kindnesses of the strangers closest to them in the standings. Let’s also say that the most important of the 10 important games left will be the ones in which either Anderson (this coming Monday in Seattle and Sunday in Los Angeles) or Trevor Cahill (Friday against Minnesota and Wednesday in Seattle) start. I mean, bullpenning is a kicky little way to get through a day here or there, but the playoffs are a difficult time to go experimental. Besides, the wild card game is essentially a bullpenning game anyway if the starter struggles early.
 
And with that last reference to the postseason, we take our nightly leave of Oakland, where Bob Melvin is frantically knocking on his desk, which is made of actual wood rather than mere dry-wall. He is nothing is not devoted to his superstitions.