OAKLAND — The A’s capped off an encouraging weekend at the Coliseum, where they didn’t get caught dwelling on the past.
After losing six of seven against the Yankees and Mariners, they steadied themselves by taking two of three from a Detroit Tigers team that carries realistic chances of contending in the American League Central.
After busting out for a season-high 12 runs in Saturday’s win, the A’s weren’t nearly as prosperous Sunday. But when the Tigers left the door cracked open while holding a 2-0 lead, the A’s took advantage, rallying for a go-ahead rally in the sixth and ringing up a 4-2 win.
“We had a rough stretch getting swept by the Yankees, then going up to Seattle and losing two out of three,” reliever Sean Doolittle said. “To come home, where we haven’t really played great overall, and take two of three from these guys was really, really big for us.”
Their mission now is not looking too far into the future.
Starting with Monday’s holiday matchup against the visiting Minnesota Twins, the A’s play their next four series (11 games) against opponents who were a combined 48 games under .500 entering Sunday night.
That appears to offer them a chance to get healthier in the win-loss column, perhaps even chip away more at their deficit in the American League West. They sit 7 1/2 games behind Texas, which overtook Seattle for first place Sunday.
Doolittle, who notched his first save since April 20, said looking ahead should be the furthest thing from the A’s minds given the injuries and inconsistency that’s plagued them. The Twins, who just swept Seattle on the road, should definitely command their attention despite their 15-34 record. Following that series, the A’s play three at Houston (21-29), two at Milwaukee (22-27) and three at Cincinnati (16-33).
“We have so much going on in this clubhouse, we have to turn our sights internally,” Doolittle said. “With the injuries we’ve had, I think it would be somewhat foolish to start looking ahead. We need to play better at home, get more consistent.”
The A’s took an inward look by holding a players-only meeting Friday, with veterans Coco Crisp, Rich Hill, Ryan Madson and Josh Reddick among those leading the discussion. The aim was not to let the numerous injuries derail the team’s collective effort and focus.
“It’s just getting that conviction back out there,” Hill said. “We have guys that have put their heart and soul into working to get to this level, over days, months and years. All you can ask for is that consistent effort we bring out there on the field. The fans appreciate that. That’s what they appreciate the most, I believe.”
The A’s proceeded to break out offensively Saturday. After Sunday’s go-ahead rally, the bullpen provided lock-down work when Hill left in the seventh with a groin strain the does not appear too serious. Ryan Dull got the final two outs of the seventh. Then manager Bob Melvin flip-flopped his setup and closer, calling on Madson in the eighth to retire J.D. Martinez, Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez (a trio that entered the game 4-for-36 off him). Doolittle registered a 1-2-3 ninth for the save.
“That’s why I’ve been so against naming a particular closer,” Melvin said. “Sometimes it’s going to work out like that. Madson has the most saves, but there will be times when matchup-wise I want to do it the other way.”
Doolittle has allowed runs in just two of his past 11 outings, during which he’s struck out 14 and walked two. So he’s making himself more of an effective ninth-inning option for Melvin.
“I think Bob has done a really good job communicating to us certain scenarios where something like today might happen,” Doolittle said. “(Madson) has been our best guy, he’s our closer. But sometimes there’s scenarios where maybe the biggest three outs of a game are gonna come up in the eighth inning.
“I think everybody down in that bullpen has a selfless mentality where we’re not hung up on roles. We just want to help the team win.”