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A’s ride the backs of Balfour, Cook, Doolittle

Oct 3, 2012, 8:03 PM EDT

Grant Balfour Reuters

For the A’s, it’s as easy as B, C, D

In sweeping the Rangers to win the AL West this week, the A’s had Grant Balfour, Ryan Cook and Sean Doolittle pitch the final three innings of all three games. They didn’t go in that order — Balfour had the ninth, while the other two alternate in the seventh and eighth — but they are pretty much interchangable. They combined to allow three hits in nine scoreless innings between the three games.

It wasn’t just those three games either. Cook hasn’t allowed a run in 14 appearances. Balfour has gone 10 straight without giving up a run. Doolittle is the ugly duckling of the group, having allowed a run just last week.

But Doolittle is the best story. A supplemental first-round pick as a first baseman five years ago, he just made the move to the mound last year. He entered 2012 with a total of one inning of game experience, that coming in Rookie ball at the end of 2007. After quickly tearing through the minors, he arrived on June 5 and struck out three Rangers in 1 1/3 innings. Five days later, he struck out five Diamondbacks in two innings. He’ll now head into the postseason with a 60/11 K/BB ratio and a 3.04 ERA in 47 1/3 innings.

Cook was the lesser name the A’s picked up from the Diamondbacks along with Jarrod Parker in the Trevor Cahill deal. He got his first taste of the majors last year, giving up six runs in 7 2/3 innings. This year, he started off with 23 straight scoreless innings before finally giving up a run on May 28. He replaced the struggling Balfour in the closer’s role in June and was named Oakland’s lone All-Star a month later. At the end of July, he hit a rough patch of his own, blowing four saves in five opportunities. The A’s gave the closer’s role back to Balfour then, but Cook didn’t sulk. From Aug. 11 on, he allowed runs in just one of  his 23 appearances. He finished the season with a 2.09 ERA.

And then there’s the 35-year-old Balfour, the veteran of Oakland’s staff since Bartolo Colon was suspended. Unlike pretty much every other pitcher the A’s are relying on right now, Balfour has a history of success that extends beyond this year. That said, he was beset by arm problems throughout his 20s and never established himself as a major leaguer until he was 30. He entered this season with 10 career saves. Now he has 34. He finished with a 2.53 ERA in a career-high 74 2/3 innings.

For the A’s manage to go deep into the postseason, one imagines the trio of relievers will have to keep doing what they’re doing. There’s been no let up through some pretty strenuous workloads this far, and with the win today, at least they can all look forward to two days off before they’ll be needed again Saturday.

  1. butchhuskey - Oct 3, 2012 at 8:07 PM

    Balfour is hilarious with the way he yells profanities at himself – BALFOUR RAGE!

    • rollinghighwayblues - Oct 3, 2012 at 9:03 PM

      Although it was amusing to watch, I have to wonder if the Rangers took it as disrespectful, especially after the bitter feeling they must feel after the sweep. Even though it’s months and months down the road, I’m curious to see if the Rangers retaliate when they see them again. I know it’s petty but I’ve seen plunkings for far less.

      • rollinghighwayblues - Oct 3, 2012 at 9:38 PM

        Fun fact: over on Off The Bench, Chandler has a piece about Balfour calling to the dugout and demanding that he pitch in the 9th regardless of the score.

        “According to Bay Area Comcast announcers Ray Fosse and Glen Kuiper, Balfour then went to the bullpen phone and placed a call to the dugout, presumably stating that no way was he not pitching the ninth. And sure enough, Miller sat down.”

      • albertmn - Oct 4, 2012 at 10:58 AM

        Well, it isn’t necessarily months and months down the road, as both teams are in the playoffs. Not that I expect both to advance to meet again, but it is certainly possible they could meet in about a week and a half or so.

  2. timmons94 - Oct 3, 2012 at 8:31 PM

    Billy Beane is a genius . go Oakland !

  3. dondada10 - Oct 3, 2012 at 8:46 PM

    “For the A’s, it’s as easy as B, C, D”

    Weak.

  4. udub - Oct 4, 2012 at 1:57 AM

    I have to say…I was skeptical at first when Brad Pitt started running the As, but he did it!

  5. sharkcity408 - Oct 4, 2012 at 6:13 PM

    Being a lifelong As fan and having an uncle who played for them, I am truly happy for these guys. What an epic story it would be if they took the World Series. A tale that’d last the test of time

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