Blake Treinen

A's must find eighth-inning answer after gut-punch loss to Yankees

A's must find eighth-inning answer after gut-punch loss to Yankees

It all began to fall apart in the eighth inning, which suddenly is the A's archnemesis.

Like watching a car accident happen in slow motion, an inevitable sense of doom came over the Oakland bullpen at Yankee Stadium on Sunday. Leading 4-0, Jake Diekman walked Mike Tauchman, the Yankees' No. 9 hitter, to start the inning.

Then it was Lou Trivino's turn. The right-hander allowed a single and another walk to load the bases with no outs. Gleyber Torres hit a deep fly ball to center, advancing all three runners and cutting the lead to 4-1.

It was now Liam Hendriks time. Oakland manager Bob Melvin called on his closer for his second five-out save in the last four days. This time, he couldn't get it done.

Hendriks allowed his two inherited runners to score on a single by Didi Gregorius. Then in the ninth inning, he surrendered back-to-back home runs to Brett Gardner and Mike Ford, as the Yankees walked off with a 5-4 victory.

"That's another tough spot to put him in," Melvin told reporters after the game. "We're trying to get two outs in the eighth and just couldn't do it. We were down some guys today and just trying to put our best foot forward. We've asked five outs several times out of him now and that's a tough deal, especially against these guys."

It was the A's 26th blown save of the season, third-most in the majors and just one away from the top spot of an honor no one wants to hold. It also was Oakland's ninth loss when leading after seven innings, seven more than all of last year.

"It was basically a tale of two games, the first seven innings and then the last two," Melvin said. "Unfortunately, we ended up on the wrong end of it."

In reality, an off-game for Hendriks was inevitable, given his grueling workload. The A's have failed to find a reliable eighth-inning option out of the bullpen, which has forced Hendriks into far too many multi-inning outings.

"(I didn't) have the best command and it came back to bite us," Hendriks told reporters. "It's always tough just sitting down and then going back out. I think it's trying to battle your emotions while getting into a situation and somewhat get out of it, and then go back out there with a one-run game. It's a little harder. But it's still no excuse. I needed to get my job done and unfortunately wasn't able to do it, and now we get a loss instead of walking away with a happy flight."

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Perhaps Blake Treinen can step into that role; the right-hander has been much sharper over the past two weeks. Or maybe young A.J. Puk is ready to become the team's primary setup man.

One way or another, the A's have to come up with a solution. Otherwise, losses like Sunday will cost them a playoff spot.

A's bullpen turns back the clock with dominant effort in win vs. Astros

A's bullpen turns back the clock with dominant effort in win vs. Astros

OAKLAND -- It's no secret that the A's bullpen has dealt with its share of struggles this season. Heck, we literally just published an article about it earlier Friday.

But on Friday night, Oakland's pen turned back the clock to 2018. Blake Treinen, Jake Diekman, Joakim Soria, and Lou Trivino combined to pitch seven scoreless innings against a relentless Astros lineup, leading the A's to a thrilling 3-2 win in 13 innings.

"It was a big night for a lot of guys, and maybe some guys who were struggling a little bit really emerged," said A's manager Bob Melvin. "We saw the type of stuff that we saw last year. So hats off."

The final numbers? Seven innings, no runs, three hits, two walks (one intentional), and nine strikeouts. It was a performance made even more impressive by the fact that Melvin was down his top two bullpen arms -- Liam Hendriks had pitched the previous two days and Yusmeiro Petit the last three.

Instead, Oakland had to turn to four relievers with ERAs above four. And all four came through in a big way.

"I would love to not give up a single run -- all of us -- and absolutely dominate a game like we did today," Trivino said. "It's awesome. Baseball's not like that, unfortunately, so it's nice to have a good night like this. Lord willing, it continues."

Trivino was especially impressive, extending himself for three innings and 41 pitches. He allowed just a single hit and an intentional walk, pitching around a rare Matt Chapman error in the 13th inning to earn his fourth win of the year.

"That's huge for him," Melvin said. "You have to go out there and be perfect to not lose the game. I think this was great for his confidence as well. That's a really tough lineup he went through for three innings. He hasn't done that in quite some time. Really impressive to see."

Trivino joked that it was nice to finally answer reporters' questions after a positive outing, which have been far too rare this season.

"It seems like recently, it's been telling you guys how terrible I am," Trivino said. "I finally felt behind the ball today. I was able to attack the hitters and throw all of my pitches for strikes. It was something that I really needed and I'm thankful that I was able to pull through for the team and give us a chance to win."

Soria's performance was just as important, as he grinded through two exhausting innings and 43 pitches himself. The veteran right-hander also had to overcome an error, picking up second baseman Corban Joseph in the 10th.

"Soria was impressive too because he was completely out of gas," Melvin said. "But when I went out to talk to him, he had no part of coming out of that game. He wanted that last out."

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Perhaps this will be the night that changes the fortunes for Oakland's bullpen. Maybe they can regain last season's form for the rest of the year.

At the very least, Friday provided an enormous boost of confidence for four pitchers who desperately needed it.
 

A's hoping A.J. Puk, Jake Diekman can steady bullpen in playoff push

A's hoping A.J. Puk, Jake Diekman can steady bullpen in playoff push

OAKLAND -- The A's bullpen has surprisingly been a liability all season long.

After blowing just 18 saves last year, tied for fifth-fewest in MLB, Oakland has already blown 22 saves this season, tied for third-most in the league. The bullpen's ERA is much worse too, up from 3.37 in 2018 to 4.12 this year.

So what's caused the drop in performance? Well, in short, Blake Treinen and Lou Trivino haven't looked like anything close to last year's versions. Treinen emerged as an All-Star closer in 2018, finishing the year with a 0.78 ERA. This season, his ERA has ballooned to 4.86.

Meanwhile, Trivino has suffered a serious sophomore slump with a 5.14 ERA in 50 appearances. That follows a tremendous rookie season in 2018 which saw him go 8-3 with a 2.92 ERA.

The A's added veteran reliever Joakim Soria in the offseason, signing him to a two-year, $15 million deal. But Soria has stumbled to the worst season of his career, going 1-4 with a 4.97 ERA.

Fortunately, the A's pen has the potential to improve for the stretch run. Oakland has already added hard-throwing left-hander Jake Diekman from the Royals. The 32-year-old picked up his first win of the season in Thursday's victory over the Astros. 

Perhaps even more significant, A's No. 2 prospect A.J. Puk appears to be nearing a call-up. Puk, 24, is coming off Tommy John surgery but has had no setbacks to this point and could be an extremely valuable late-inning option in Oakland.

"It seems like maybe he's kind of hitting his stride (in Las Vegas)," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "If he continues to pitch in the fashion that he is, there's a good chance you're going to see him here sooner than later."

Of course, the two bright spots in the A's bullpen this season have been right-handers Liam Hendriks and Yusmeiro Petit. Hendriks, 30, has emerged as a dominant closer, going 4-1 with 14 saves and a 1.54 ERA, along with 88 strikeouts in just 64 1/3 innings.

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Petit, 34, has been nearly as valuable, going 3-2 with a 2.60 ERA in a team-high 61 appearances. The veteran can pitch in just about any situation, for any amount of batters.

If the A's can find even one or two more reliable options, the pen will be in much better shape heading into September. Perhaps Puk and Diekman can make that happen.