On Your Heels: A’s nip Angels 8-7, creep closer to Astros at the top of the AL West

By Morris Phillips

Like today’s starting pitcher, Blake Treinen is a singular force of momentum as a closer.

Treinen stepped on the mound for the bottom of the ninth on Sunday knowing this: only one of the 13 pitchers that preceded him escaped without allowing at least one walk or a hit in a game that resembled batting practice as much as a major league affair can. With the A’s clinging to an 8-7 lead–narrowed from 8-3 by the Angels over the previous four innings–Treinen was entrusted with the task of getting the final three outs.

Challenging task and circumstances? Sure, how else could you explain Treinen needing 11 pitches–not nine–to finish the afternoon with three, consecutive strikeouts?

Well, for the bullpen-rich A’s, Trienen is the closer of closers. Consider the 30-year old fireballer the crescendo of crescendos. Following trade acquisitions Jeurys Familia and Fernando Rodney–both closers for their former teams–not to mention premiere setup man, Lou Trivino, Treinen was one more power arm than the Angels could withstand on Sunday.

While the offenses piled up the runs on Sunday, the bullpens dictated the outcome. The Angels’ bullpen, beset by injuries, had a rag tag, patched together look while the A’s relievers, as a unit, resembled an out-making machine. Afterwards, Angels’ manager Mike Scioscia admitted his guys weren’t exactly a seamless organization.

“We’re looking at whoever is available to give us innings,” said Scioscia, who went without a starter on Sunday, as bullpen guy Taylor Cole took the ball to start, and was followed by six more relievers. “We tried to line them up as best we can, but it’s just not as efficient as it is if you have at least the functionality of having starters that are getting to a certain point of the game.”

Trevor Cahill, looking for his fourth win in as many starts, achieved just once previously in his decade-long, big league career, didn’t exactly deliver the A’s to their bullpen. Not the dominant force on the road as he’s been at the Coliseum, Cahill blew an early 3-0 A’s lead in two, swift acts. Then after he steadied in the third and fourth innings, Cahill fell into trouble in the fifth, and was lifted despite the A’s leading 7-4 at that point.

Jed Lowrie’s two-run homer in the fourth off ex-Athletic Jim Johnson appeared to give the A’s a comfortable lead, but then Cahill gave a run back in the bottom of the frame. Yusmeiro Petit was touched for a run in the sixth, and Familia allowed two runs in the eighth, setting the stage for the narrowed finish.

Treinen picked up his 30th save in 34 chances, lowered his ERA to 0.92, and boosted his strikeouts per nine innings to 12.

Lowrie’s double and homer were the 1,000th and 1,001st hits of his career.

With the A’s winning while the Mariners finished off a four-game sweep off the Astros, the A’s climbed within 2 1/2 games of the AL West division lead. That’s as close as the A’s have been to first place since April 3, and seamlessly sets up their next six games–three against the Mariners, then three against the Astros–all at the Coliseum.

Sean Manaea faces Marco Gonzalez in the series opener with both lefties looking to improve on their double-digit win totals.

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