TORONTO -- Oakland's late-inning magic, though lately characterized by an unrelenting offense, extends just as much to a seven-man bullpen that has been lights out during a 15-2 July.
In that span, A's relievers have given up just eight runs over 51 innings for a 1.41 ERA, their opponents' average barely visible at .156. This coming from a staff that boasts just one veteran.
"As many close games as we've had, you can't keep going to the well too often, especially with young pitchers like we have," manager Bob Melvin said Wednesday. "Those are guys becoming prominent, and all of a sudden they're in those games and they have success doing it and their confidence grows. There really isn't a guy in our bullpen that we haven't used in some sort of prominent situation."
That includes Evan Scribner, who has quietly racked up a handful of impressive outings, not allowing a run in 10 innings with the A's this year. Then there's Jerry Blevins, who buoyed back and forth between Triple-A and Oakland last year, only to become a mainstay in this year's bullpen, thanks to 2.45 ERA and 1.02 WHIP. Fellow lefty Jordan Norberto has been equally impressive, allowing just 19 percent of his inherited runners to score -- good for 10th lowest in the American League.
And that's without mention of stalwarts Grant Balfour and Ryan Cook, along with the increasingly consistent arm of Sean Doolittle, who has a 13 1/3-inning scoreless streak and 29 strikeouts in 19 1/3 total frames. Together, they've combined for an AL-best 2.73 ERA.
"It's easy to look at the young starters and what they've done, but how many complete games do they have?" Melvin said. "The bullpen is coming in and completing games, and in really spectacular fashion. You look at the numbers, and not only do we lead the league in starters' ERA but relievers' ERA. There's always a psychological value to a good bullpen for a team when you have a lead."
A's still seeking infielder after Hanley trade
TORONTO -- As soon as word escaped about Yunel Escobar's late exit from the lineup Wednesday, speculation about whether it was because a trade had sent the Blue Jays' shortstop over to the A's clubhouse circulated.
It was just back stiffness for Escobar, though, or so the club said. The A's, then, don't appear to be close to finalizing any trade at the time being, despite their well-known desire to add a shortstop like Escobar by Tuesday's non-waiver Trade Deadline.
On Tuesday night, Hanley Ramirez was wiped off the board, after the Dodgers reeled him in by way of a four-player deal with the Marlins. Still, other options remain for the A's, who were very much in on Ramirez, a club source confirmed.
Aside from Escobar, the A's could look to add the Padres' Chase Headley, though a more realistic option may be found in Stephen Drew, despite D-backs GM Kevin Towers' insistence on Tuesday that Drew is likely staying put, especially after he dealt away infielder Ryan Roberts to the Rays.
"I don't think there's a deal out there right now involving Stephen that's going to make us a better club this year and we're still in win mode," Towers told local reporters. "If we fall out of this thing middle of August, late August, we still have trade waivers and if we don't know if we're going to be able to bring Stephen back then maybe it's different.
"People kick tires, they ask about him, I don't blame them. But I haven't seen or heard anything right now that by trading Stephen Drew is going to make us a better club."
Drew, who can be a free agent at season's end, has played in just 18 games this year because of an ankle injury he incurred last season. In that time, he's batting .222. In seven Major League seasons, though, he's averaged a .269 mark with 15 home runs and 71 RBIs, and his defense has improved each year. Moreover, an A's player who once played with Drew called him "a very good teammate."
The D-backs are likely eying a top-notch prospect in return for Drew, who would offer an offensive upgrade over the struggling and now-injured Cliff Pennington.