OAKLAND – A's closer Blake Treinen came off the injured list Wednesday and was thrown right into a high-stress, high-leverage situation.
Not exactly the “soft landing” that skipper Bob Melvin had in mind. Easing Treinen back into a safe spot with margin for error was Plan A, leaving tight spots for relievers already in rhythm.
When Wednesday's game against the Minnesota Twins went to extra innings, Melvin enacted Plan B. He put Treinen in for the 12th, crossed his fingers and hoped for the reliever to be at his best.
The decision backfired. Treinen gave up consecutive walks and a Mitch Garver RBI single that decided a 4-3 loss at Oakland Coliseum.
“I told him, ‘if we get into a 12-inning game, I might to have to use you.’ That’s exactly where we were,” Melvin said. “It wasn’t ideal, but unfortunately it came to that.”
It also continued a trend of rough outings, which plagued Treinen even before he was placed on the injured list with a shoulder issue.
His last outing was a mess. Treinen didn’t get an out while allowing three runs and a walk on June 20 against the Tampa Bay Rays. That was the worst part of a run where he allowed 10 runs and nine walks in 11 innings.
Treinen said before the game that he was feeling physically fine, and was comfortable entering Wednesday even after allowing three runs on four hits Monday in a minor league start with Triple-A Las Vegas.
His location seemed off against Minnesota, and Melvin noticed a velocity downtick while Treinen tried to throw strikes.
Contrast Treinen’s latest struggles to new AL Reliever of the Month and substitute closer Liam Hendriks, who gave up a single and then recorded six straight outs in the ninth and 10th innings. Hendricks strutted around the mound in between, showing confidence and clear command. He was locked in, as he has been for weeks.
Those points aren’t meant to suggest a closer change should be made. Hendricks is red-hot right now, but Treinen has 67 saves over two-plus seasons in Oakland. He has earned an opportunity to find vintage form.
Melvin locked that course of action before the game. He said there is no closer controversy, and that Treinen’s track record in the clutch will keep him pitching in save situations.
Treinen might skip the next one, however, as Melvin tries to get his guy back in rhythm.
“Maybe we’ll take another outing,” Melvin said. “and try to get him a different look for an inning."
Pinning this loss solely on Treinen isn’t appropriate here anyway, after a wacky affair loaded with golden opportunities for the A's to win their fifth straight game. That list included controversial one that would’ve kept Treinen out of harm’s way.
Matt Chapman and Matt Olson walked to start the 10th, and a fielder’s choice play pushed Chapman to third base with one out. He ran home on contact and was called out at the plate, though NBC Sports California replays seemed to show him scoring before the tag.
Chappy was called out after review.— A's on NBCS (@NBCSAthletics) July 4, 2019
You be the ump… safe or out?? pic.twitter.com/xKS9fzklTL
Melvin challenged the play, but the call was upheld and the game remained tied until the 12th.
“It was really close,” Chapman said. “I know the throw beat me, but when he was going to make the tag (I got to the plate first). It’s just one of those bang-bang plays that can go either way. The video was conclusive enough to overturn it, especially something that’s going to end the game. Looking back at it now, it’s a huge play. It’s the way it goes sometimes.
"We had other opportunities to win the game, but that’s a good baseball team and they found a way to win against good pitchers from our side.”