Taxed 'pen keeps A's within striking distance

A's starter Hill was pulled after 4 1/3, putting a burden on the relievers

Taxed 'pen keeps A's within striking distance

OAKLAND -- Following Rich Hill's 4 1/3-inning outing against the Royals on Friday night, the A's were left to not only ponder the southpaw's inconsistencies, but the effect they're having on an overworked bullpen.

By picking up Hill with 4 2/3 innings to keep their club within striking distance in an eventual 4-2 loss, A's relievers have totaled 40 2/3 innings collectively in just 11 games -- most in the Majors. They've been largely superb, but keeping up this kind of workload could be detrimental down the road.

In the meantime, A's skipper Bob Melvin is doing his best to manage these pieces, even if it means using Sean Doolittle in the ninth inning with a one-run deficit, as he did Friday. Doolittle fell victim to excellent hitting by Eric Hosmer, who managed to launch a well-placed fastball to dead center for a solo home run.

"That is a bit of a concern right now," Melvin said. "I mean, I don't want to use Sean Doolittle in that type of situation there, but we have to have some guys available in case we get into the middle innings again. Overall, we need to get a bit deeper into games."

"To not get through five and put the bullpen in the position I put them in is not acceptable," Hill said. "I take full responsibility for that, and it's not something I take lightly."

Hill, who just six days prior fanned 10 in a six-inning outing in Seattle that netted him his first win in green and gold, was stuck with his second loss Friday, after yielding three runs on nine hits and three walks -- including two free passes that resulted in runs -- with six strikeouts.

Hill labored throughout, needing 106 pitches to record 13 outs, and it's the second time in three starts he's been unable to complete five innings.

"A little inconsistent," catcher Stephen Vogt said. "I thought he threw some really good pitches and I thought he had good command of his breaking ball for the most part, but he struggled with his command at times with the fastball and got himself into some hitters' counts."

"Getting ahead early in counts is a must," Hill said. "That's something we saw in Seattle. Today, they just did a good job of fighting off pitching and also putting good pitches in play. It's a matter of me making a better pitch in counts where I have to put guys away."

Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.