Ray Ratto

Presented By Ray Ratto
Ray Ratto

OAKLAND -- Mike Fiers’ seeming one-man campaign to keep the Oakland A's from applying the all-relief-pitcher staff for September’s stretch run seemed to be going smoothly Friday night. Until it didn’t, and then the cold reality set in, whis is this:
 
The A’s need more and more and more relievers. They need them stacked to the sun. At least they seem intent on giving that strategy a good forceful go.
 
Fiers was spotted a tidy 5-0 first-inning lead Friday in a game the A’s eventually won over Seattle, 7-5, but he proved to be less than immune to market forces. He is Oakland's best starter, but he was not this evening, as a three-homer fourth showed. Hey, things happen – sometimes a lot in a compressed time frame.
 
But the A’s have cast their fate in a different direction anyway. A Marianas Trench-deep bullpen, made one deeper by the deadline acquisition of former Giant Cory Gearrin, a black hole-level defense (the scientific black hole, not the Coliseum end zone black hole), and a conga-line offense first made famous here remain their tickets to ride as the season narrows to its savage best.
 
Friday’s win returned the gap between the A’s and Houston to 1½ games, re-widened the chasm between the Elephants and Seattle to 5½, and for those of you who dream large, maintained the distance between them and the New York Yankees to five.
 
And it happened with seven runs and 13 hits, six of them doubles or homers. It happened with six pitchers, of whom only one (Lou Trivino) began his professional career under the Elephant. And it happened one night after they got their dignity kicked in when Seattle batted around on them in the first inning.
 
In other words, whether they take their staff full Tampa or just modify it for local conditions, the A’s know what got them here, and what will have to get them into the beyond.
 
“It’s a possibility,” manager Bob Melvin said without any particular conviction when asked if the Tampa Bay solution could be theirs as well. “It’s something we’re thinking about.”
 
Well, maybe they are. Indeed, don’t be surprised if you see a few of those between now and the end of the regular season. The A’s rotation has been steadily dwindling in number all season, and bringing in Gearrin at the deadline hints that the starting pitcher tank is not only running dry but starting to burn oil as well.
 
But the A’s were, are, and will continue to be a team built on fly balls, defense and a bullpen numerous enough to invade and conquer Finland.
 
But we digress into the History Channel. As for the A’s, Gearrin’s absorption into what is already a nine-deep pen may only mean that the A’s are simply trying to survive, endure and lose no ground after 15 days of a 20-games-in-20-days stretch, and that he will have served as a helpful stopgap for the last few weeks.
 
And we won’t really know how it works in the postseason because the A’s have a wave of minor league call-ups coming Saturday and another one Tuesday; few are expected to be starting pitchers. We might indeed see a Tampa Job or five down the stretch, a bullpen conga line to go along with the offensive one they do so often, but it is difficult to imagine a full-blown conversion (sorry, but in the Warner Brothers universe, pitching changes were rare, as only Bugs Bunny really adapted well to the job).
 
But the A’s ended August with nine relievers, three bench players (one of them being backup catcher Josh Phegley, whose use is limited by the nature of the position) and no left-handed hitters or right-handed starters. This will be a white-knuckle job to the very end, and the A’s will survive as far as the conga-line attack and bunny-hop bullpen will take them.