OAKLAND — On Friday night, Lou Trevino had to get warm quickly. Oakland Athletics manager Bob Melvin had sent usually-reliable Yusmeiro Petit to the mound in relief of Daniel Mengden for the first of what he had hoped would be two innings.
Petit allowed four straight singles before pitching coach Curt Young came out to visit, and Trivino began warming up. Petit would allow another single — to former Athletic Danny Valencia — before Trivino was called in.
It took the 27-year old two 96-mph pitches to get out of the inning, inducing a double play grounder to Jed Lowrie off the bat of Jace Peterson.
“He has the ability to keep the ball on the ground, and has velo on top of it,” Melvin said. “Really, the only other guy in our bullpen that throws like that is Blake, and Blake’s going to be at the end of the game.”
Trivino, a veteran of five minor league seasons, has earned Melvin’s trust in high-leverage situations. He’s 2-0 in just seven appearances, with a 0.93 ERA. Trivino’s emergence effectively gives Oakland two closers, along with Blake Treinen, who finished out Friday’s 6-4 series-opening win over the Baltimore Orioles.
“I think the impression last night, maybe more so than any, he’s made a good impression since he’s been here,” said Melvin.
One reason Trivino has been so effective: He’s allowed just one hit to the first batter he faces in an inning. With runners in scoring position, hitters are batting just .143 against him.
It’s no wonder that the pitcher Melvin compares Trivino to is the one who most frequently follows him: Treinen, who, in his second year with the A’s, and first as the full-time closer, has four saves in 10 appearances.
“He’s got some presence on the mound,” Melvin said. “When you have 98 [mph], I would think you have presence, and like I said, the movement, as well. His breaking ball has come a long way. He’s quickly moved up in our bullpen, a guy that we would use late in the game in big situations like last night.”
Jonathan Lucroy — who went 3-for-4 against the Orioles on Friday — will get a day off on Saturday. He’s played in five straight games — tied for his longest stretch without a break this season — and with a right-hander on the mound in Kevin Gausman (one of three right-handers in a row), Melvin felt it was as good a time as any to give Lucroy a break.
“In this case, we wanted to give Luc a day off off, a night game ahead of a day game. He brings a lot of energy in the day games, and it’s a little bit more that way.”
The numbers don’t quite bear that out. This season, Lucroy is hitting .238 in the day time, compared to .299 at night. In the day time, his OBP is .304, compared to .365 at night, and his slugging drops from .418 under the lights to .286 in the sun.
What Lucroy does bring, however, is a steadiness behind the plate.
Among catchers with 300 or more stolen base opportunities faced (a runner on first or second with no runner in front of them), he’s fifth in the Major Leagues in caught-stealing percentage. He’s sixth in the bigs in runner kills — runners picked off, caught stealing or otherwise retired while trying to advance. He ranks third in runners caught stealing.
“He’s the first experienced guy we’ve had since Stephen [Vogt] … and it shows up right away,” Melvin said. “He’s played in both leagues, he takes pride in being a true catcher that’s in there for the pitcher, and the pitchers appreciate that. I think they rely on him a little bit more, as far as the pitch calling goes.”
Lucroy has also benefitted the pitching staff in other ways. Three starts ago against the Boston Red Sox, Daniel Mengden threw, by his reckoning, nearly 50 change ups. He barely threw any on Friday against the Orioles, but rather relied on a wipe-out slider to account for three of his five strikeouts, and seven swings and misses over his five innings of work.
“It’s him maturing, and Luc kind of identifying the opponent and what he thought would work best against them,” Melvin said. “More curveballs and change ups [against Boston], more fastballs and sliders last night, and that was kind of the game plan going in.”
Mengden bounced back from a horrific start in Houston, where he allowed four earned runs in just 2.1 innings of work, threw 57 pitches, walked one and allowed five hits.
“In Houston, I fell behind a lot, and stayed behind, and it’s really hard to recover, especially against a good offense like that,” Mengden said. “[Friday] it was just throwing strikes. The slider and the fastball were really good, not many change ups or curveballs. That’s the way it set up tonight.”
Sitting at 84 pitches after five innings against Baltimore, Mengden thought he could have gone back out, and Melvin said, in hindsight, he should have let Mengden go further, since he’s gone into the sixth or later in four of his seven starts, and thrown 100 or more pitches three times.
“I didn’t really lobby for it,” Mengden said. “[Melvin] came in and said, ‘You’re doing a great job, and I know we had a plan going in,’ and I always want to be out there. You never want to get pulled, especially when you have some pitches left in you, but ultimately, the boss man says you’re done, you’re done.”