ARLINGTON -- While expanded rosters ensure plenty of bullpen options for the A's this month, the club will still need to rely heavily on its core trio to secure late innings down this pivotal stretch.
This particularly holds true for this weekend's three-game set in Texas that began Friday.
"Sometimes there's some runs scored here," manager Bob Melvin said, smiling. "You usually have a full bullpen, with some added pieces in September, but it's always nice to have your key guys ready to pitch in a key series."
Closer Grant Balfour and setup men Sean Doolittle and Ryan Cook are ready.
Balfour not only utilized just 11 pitches in a one-inning appearance in Minnesota on Thursday, but was going on five days' rest. Overall in September, he's been used only three times. Doolittle and Cook, meanwhile, each haven't appeared in a game since Tuesday.
They've combined for 15 2/3 innings against the Rangers this season, allowing 14 hits but just three earned runs with 15 strikeouts for a 1.72 ERA.
None of those runs belong to Balfour, who has pitched five scoreless innings vs. Texas this year, perfect in three save opportunities in five outings against the division foe.
Outside of Balfour, Doolittle and Cook, the A's have eight other relievers in tow, including a rested Brett Anderson who hasn't pitched since Sunday, but none figure to be seen as much in the late innings this weekend as them.
Not when so much is at stake.
"We try to play every game like it's the last game of the season, and the game we have to win," Melvin said. "That shouldn't change, but there does seem to be more intensity when we do play these guys."
Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less