Programming note: Watch A's October Quest tonight at 6:30 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet California
DETROIT – The bullpen has been a season-long strength for the Oakland A’s, yet it faltered not once but twice in a Game 4 loss to the Detroit Tigers.
[INSTANT REPLAY: A's blow chance to eliminate Tigers]
How the relief corps rebounds could have a big impact on Thursday’s Game 5, as the A’s try to close out their American League Division Series in a 5:07 p.m. game at the Coliseum.
Lefty Sean Doolittle entered in the seventh inning Tuesday charged with protecting a 4-3 lead. He surrendered a game-tying home run to Victor Martinez on the second pitch he threw. After Jhonny Peralta’s double, Austin Jackson’s broken-bat single scored the go-ahead run to give the Tigers a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
As the A’s tried to keep the game close in the eighth, Ryan Cook got the first two outs but then put two runners on. Brett Anderson relieved him in his first appearance of the postseason and simply did not look right. He walked Alex Avila, uncorked a wild pitch to bring one run home and then allowed Omar Infante’s two-run double for an 8-4 Detroit lead.
Those runs loomed large as Oakland scored twice in the top of the ninth and lost 8-6.
Doolittle lamented the fact that he and his bullpen mates couldn’t help nail down a series-clinching victory.
“You get the ballgame to the bullpen in the seventh inning, nine outs to get, and I think we’ll take that every day of the week and feel pretty good about it,” Doolittle said. “I don’t think there’s much we would have done different. They just found a way to get it done in a position that we’ve had a lot of success in all season long.”
Anderson is a starting pitcher by trade but has worked out of the bullpen since returning from the 60-day disabled list in August. A’s manager Bob Melvin worked to expose Anderson to a variety of relief scenarios – including entering in the middle of an inning – but coming into a high-pressure situation in the eighth Tuesday for his 2013 postseason debut was a tough assignment for Anderson.
“My command wasn’t very good, especially to the lefty (Avila),” Anderson said. “I was pulling everything. The hard-hit ground ball (double) down the line opened the flood gates.”
Anderson said his confidence remained intact and that he’d be ready if called upon in Game 5. With a day off Wednesday, everyone in the bullpen should be available Thursday night.
“We put a lot of faith in our bullpen,” Melvin said. “One of the reasons we are where we are is because of our bullpen. It just didn’t happen (Tuesday).”