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Melvin sticking with Balfour in closer's role

Melvin sticking with Balfour in closer's role

Melvin sticking with Balfour in closer's role

OAKLAND -- Though Grant Balfour blew a second save in his past eight appearances in Wednesday's extra-inning loss to the Angels, manager Bob Melvin maintains his closer has "pitched better" in recent days.

"Everybody goes through some struggles over the course of a season," Melvin said Thursday. "I think actually the last three times out, he's pitched better. His command's been better, and that's what we look out of him.

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"His velocity's been fine. He's been ahead of hitters. He struck out the side [Tuesday], and yesterday was really one bad pitch. So I think he's been throwing fine, and we've still got a lot of confidence in him."

Having given up a game-tying, two-run shot to Josh Hamilton in the bottom of the ninth on Wednesday, Balfour has now allowed nine runs on 13 hits with six walks and seven strikeouts over his last 10 outings.

Ryan Cook, similarly, is going through a rare bout of struggles, allowing three earned runs over his past four appearances, after yielding as many over his previous 29 games.

The timing of these woes is uneasy for the likely playoff-bound A's. But Melvin plans to stick with them through the process, a decision Sean Doolittle, who experienced his own rough patch earlier this season, supports.

"That's huge," Doolittle said. "To know that your manager has your back, I think that was a huge help for me, turning things around, to continue to put you in those situations and to show you that he still thinks you can do it. Gradually your mindset just changes to, 'Yeah, I can do it.' You end up finding a way, whether you end up having to make certain adjustments in that process as well."

Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Major Lee-ague, and follow her on Twitter @JaneMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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