A's Deep Bullpen Just Became Little Less Fresh Before Big Series With Astros

The Oakland Athletics do not play a game tomorrow, and Bob Melvin, just to name one of at least 35 or so, is perfectly good with that. Such is the state of his too-deep-yet-not-always-deep-enough bullpen.
He spoke each day of the Seattle series, whether it was after the wins Monday and Tuesday or Wednesday's 2-0 defeat in 12 innings, of how desperately the A's needed a day before the schedule started to eat them – 20 consecutive days, 13 of them against playoff contenders and presumably high-leverage games.
And for all the depth people see in the Oakland bullpen, it can evaporate quickly under so much usage.
Take Wednesday as an example. The game was tooling along quite nicely for them, Brett Anderson was giving them his best start since his first one, and even though Seattle starter Mike Leake was even more dominant, the A's in their current kissed-by-God state needed only one run in regulation to (a) sweep Seattle, (b) maintain pressure on Houston, (c) provide ticket-buying momentum for the weekend series against the Astros, (d) get their nine-inning game done in less than two hours, a white-elk-sighting occurrence these days, and most importantly, (e) offer a valuable day of rest to a bullpen that has been used 170 times in 51 games, an average of 3.3 per game.
Instead, they got only one real scoring opportunity in nine innings (the fourth when Nick Martini's leadoff triple died under a hail of strikeouts), and one in the 10th (Matt Olson's near homer). In the meantime, Seattle played long enough to get a two-run homer from Dee Gordon. Yes, 13-career-home-runs Dee Gordon.
Not that the A's get to complain. Winning three of every four games for two consecutive months means you take your occasional defeat without audible complaint.
But what was irksome was Melvin needing to use half his bullpen again even though Anderson threw a season-high 7 2/3 innings of shutout ball, winning Melvin's admiration for making the transition from an ordinary strikeout pitcher to a weak contact hitter, and he's done that the last few times for us (lowering his ERA from an unsightly 5.55 to a perfectly reasonable 3.90).
One run would have allowed Melvin to use only Lou Trivino and a choice of either Fernando Rodney or Jeurys Familia to close the ninth (Blake Treinen being essentially unavailable after three days in succession). Add the extra day, and the bullpen is fully fresh and clean for the weekend with the Astros and the beginning of the long slog ahead.
But nothing is allowed to be truly easy for Oakland, where pedal-to-metal has been the mode of choice for them in their 62-days-and-counting assault on the once-impregnable American League playoff hierarchy. The A's are well outplaying their margin of error, and Melvin, your typical managerial worry-bin, knows that the next 20 days – Houston, Texas, at Minnesota, at Texas, Seattle and the New York Yankees – will certainly teach the impressionables about stretch running and almost as surely define their place in that stretch run. He wanted the luxury of the freshest bullpen he could have going into the weekend because that bullpen won't be fresh again for three more weeks, and didn't get it.
But he'll simply have to deal with being the hottest team in baseball, Non-Boston Division. There are worse lives, and he knows – he's lived those worse lives for the last three years, and he'll take this in a hailstorm.

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