TORONTO -- Oakland's late-inning magic, though lately characterized by an unrelenting offense, extends just as much to a seven-man bullpen that has been lights out during a 15-2 July.
In that span, A's relievers have given up just eight runs over 51 innings for a 1.41 ERA, their opponents' average barely visible at .156. This coming from a staff that boasts just one veteran.
"As many close games as we've had, you can't keep going to the well too often, especially with young pitchers like we have," manager Bob Melvin said Wednesday. "Those are guys becoming prominent, and all of a sudden they're in those games and they have success doing it and their confidence grows. There really isn't a guy in our bullpen that we haven't used in some sort of prominent situation."
That includes Evan Scribner, who has quietly racked up a handful of impressive outings, not allowing a run in 10 innings with the A's this year. Then there's Jerry Blevins, who buoyed back and forth between Triple-A and Oakland last year, only to become a mainstay in this year's bullpen, thanks to 2.45 ERA and 1.02 WHIP. Fellow lefty Jordan Norberto has been equally impressive, allowing just 19 percent of his inherited runners to score -- good for 10th lowest in the American League.
And that's without mention of stalwarts Grant Balfour and Ryan Cook, along with the increasingly consistent arm of Sean Doolittle, who has a 13 1/3-inning scoreless streak and 29 strikeouts in 19 1/3 total frames. Together, they've combined for an AL-best 2.73 ERA.
"It's easy to look at the young starters and what they've done, but how many complete games do they have?" Melvin said. "The bullpen is coming in and completing games, and in really spectacular fashion. You look at the numbers, and not only do we lead the league in starters' ERA but relievers' ERA. There's always a psychological value to a good bullpen for a team when you have a lead."