OAKLAND -- Losing a prized offseason acquisition like closer Trevor Rosenthal just as the regular season begins can sometimes have lingering effects on a club. But the A’s remained confident in their bullpen’s ability to withstand such a tough loss, and that confidence is paying off.
Entering Wednesday’s game against the Blue Jays on a three-game winning streak, the A’s had closed out each of those victories with saves by three different relievers. Lou Trivino and Jake Diekman notched saves over the first two victories, while Yusmeiro Petit gave those two a rest on Tuesday night by recording his first save since 2017.
Carrying the best record in the American League at 19-12 into Wednesday, the A’s offense receives a majority of the praise for their early-season success, and deservedly so. Oakland entered the day tied with the Angels for most homers in the Majors with 40. The starting pitching has also been key, evident on Tuesday when left-hander Cole Irvin tossed eight strong innings of one-run ball with nine strikeouts.
But just as important to their standing atop the AL has been the bullpen’s ability to step up in the absence of Rosenthal. Entering play on Wednesday, A’s relievers were 7-0 with a 3.50 ERA, nine saves and a 1.74 ERA over the last 20 games, dating back to April 13. They’re the only relief corps in baseball without a loss and one of two clubs in the Majors without a blown save.
The A’s also appear to be forming a three-headed monster in the back-end of the pen. The trio of Trivino, Diekman and Petit entered Wednesday combined for nine saves with a 1.53 ERA in 48 2/3 innings pitched and 49 strikeouts against 15 walks. So, when Rosenthal does return -- which could be some time around August based on the 3-4 month recovery estimate for his thoracic outlet surgery -- Oakland's bullpen could feature several pieces manager Bob Melvin would feel comfortable with closing out games.
“It doesn’t surprise me,” Melvin said. “We felt like Lou had closer potential a couple of years ago. Jake’s always been a guy that certainly has the ability and track record and numbers to closer. Petit hadn’t been in a closing situation for us because he’s usually in a game earlier in an even tougher spot.
“All three of these guys have heavier workloads to this point. They’ve all been very successful and part of the reason that we have the record that we do.”
Petit continues to age like a fine wine. Coming off a dominant 2020 campaign in which he finished with a 1.66 ERA in 26 appearances, the 36-year-old righty has been even better to this point in '21. Holding a 0.98 ERA, he entered Wednesday on a 10-game, 12-inning scoreless streak and leading all AL relievers in appearances (16) and wins (4).
“He’s an MVP of the team-type guy,” A’s designated hitter Mitch Moreland said. “He comes in for big situations and has stranded runners for us. I think one of the banners out there in the outfield that fans hang up says, ‘our rock.’ I think that explains pretty well what he is for our team.”