OAKLAND — It was a quick turnaround for the Oakland Athletics from Friday night’s 13-inning marathon — which Robbie Grossman won with a walk-off single in the 13th at 11:21 at night — to Saturday’s 1 p.m. game with the Houston Astros.
After using four relievers for seven innings, manager Bob Melvin admitted that he was a bit more awake than his bullpen for the third game in a four-game series against the American League West-leading Houston Astros.
With such heavy usage — including two innings for Joakim Soria and three for Lou Trivino — Oakland will lean more heavily on starter Chris Bassitt on Saturday. As of late, he’s been the right guy to lean on. Since the All-Star break, he’s been arguably the A’s best pitcher.
Over his last six starts, Bassitt has gone 3-1 with a 2.00 ERA, and has not allowed a run in three of those six starts. Opponents are hitting just .221 against him over that span. In fact, save for a nine-start swoon between May 21 and July 6 (when he went 3-3 with a 6.00 ERA and a .249 BAA), he’s been Oakland’s second-best starter all season behind Mike Fiers. In his first six outings of the year, he went 2-1 with a 1.93 ERA and a .179 BAA.
He’s at his best during the day, going 6-2 with a 2.81 ERA (20 earned runs in 64 innings) and a .198 BAA in 10 daytime starts, tying for third in the AL in wins during day games. Oddly enough, Bassitt was 0-8 in 15 career day games entering the season.
While Bassitt will likely have to go a bit longer to preserve the bullpen, the relief corps is less of a liability than it’s been for much of the season. While the group’s ERA jumped from 3.37 to 4.05 from 2018 to 2019, they only dropped from third in baseball to sixth in baseball. Much of that has been due to the fact that All-Star closer Blake Treinen saw his ERA jump from 0.78 to 4.86, and setup man Lou Trivino going from a 2.92 mark in 2018 to a high of 5.14.
Trivino, though, has held opponents scoreless in 10 of his last 15 outings, including a three-inning stretch on Friday, when he fanned four and allowed just one hit and one walk.
“In the past, [Trivino] struggled when he’s gotten behind, he’s gotten a little bit more predictable, and maybe doesn’t have the confidence that he showed last night, and he was on it right away,” Melvin said. “You could see, in the first couple pitches, he was throwing the ball where he wanted to, he used all his pitches yesterday, used his curveball effectively yesterday, used his changeup, the cutter, the fastball, so that was a big outing for him.”
Trivino’s ERA is still a ghastly 4.85, but he’s showing a bit of what made him such a dominant reliever as a rookie.
“His stuff’s always been there and the second year is always difficult I think,” Melvin said. “[He’s] making some adjustments and going through some tough periods, but I think yesterday’s game will bode well for him in the future
Both Trivino and and Treinen are starting to string a few quality outings together, which bodes well for the A’s down the stretch, as they chase the Cleveland Indians and Tampa Bay Rays for the wild card spots. Marcus Semien, Matt Olson and Tanner Roark watched the Indians and Yankees game intently on the clubhouse big screen on Saturday morning.
“We didn’t give up until after, you know, after the seventh inning until the last couple weeks of the season and those guys were the reason why,” Melvin said. “And you never really nothing happens exactly the way it did last season. But both these guys were kind of the other end of the bullpen right now and just seeing them coming back and starting to pitch well, makes everybody feel better about our bullpen and kind of the length of our bullpen.”
The fact that the A’s have been able to beat the Astros twice in a row — especially after a concerning series against the San Francisco Giants — also bodes well, especialyl with the pitching additions that are on the horizon.
Melvin said that Marco Estrada — who threw 59 pitches (32 strikes) and gave up four runs in three innings on Friday — may not be one of those options, at least, as a starter. He could return as a bullpen arm.
“I think anything’s up, you know, we’re all we’re considering that how we get there … if we have any more injuries,” Melvin said. “We’re still trying to mull around what we do potentially with [Jeuss] Luzardo, to what we do with [A.J.] Puk, and we have [Sean] Manaea was on the verge of being ready. So there are a lot of things that we have to kind of throw around.”
Center fielder Ramon Laureano will start to tun on Tuesday, as he recovers from a stress reaction in his right shin. He’s already begun swinging and throwing, but when he starts running, it will be heavily monitored.
“When he does get back to running, it’s going to be running for a day and then maybe taking a day off and and trying to see you know, how he responds each and every day,” Melvin said. “So, we’re not close to getting them back.”
Khris Davis started the day hitting seventh for the A’s, and while he’s shown signs of breaking out of his seasonlong slump (.224, 17 home runs), the Oakland DH is hitting .161 in the month of August. Batting down in the linup should put less pressure on Davis, who hit 133 home runs over the last three seasons — the most in the majors — and was a focal point of the A’s power-heavy offense.
Even with his minor contribution, Oakland has hit the fourth-most homers in baseball (195; Houston is third with 209). Last season, the A’s were also fourth, with 322.
“We see signs of him coming out and some good at bats and then you know, and then some tougher ones,” Melvin said. “He’s okay, hitting where he is right now. And, you know, he’s picked this team up for three years, and he’s going through a significant period where the other guys are picking him up right now. So, you know, he just needs a couple big games in my opinion to get going. But the you know, the longer you are in these funks, the deeper it’s kind of weighs on you. This is the first time we’ve seen this since he’s been here, so he’s trying to find his way out.