A's young bullpen keeping pace with rotation 

click to enlarge All-Star closer Ryan Cook and the rest of the A’s bullpen are a key reason the team has been red hot of late. - KELLEY L. COX/US PRESSWIRE
  • Kelley L. Cox/US PRESSWIRE
  • All-Star closer Ryan Cook and the rest of the A’s bullpen are a key reason the team has been red hot of late.

The A’s just might be the best story in baseball right now.

A club picked to finish last in the division by most experts is 14-2 in July after beating the New York Yankees in four consecutive games at the Coliseum — and winning each game by one run, including Sunday’s 5-4 win in 12 innings.

In fact, the A’s have won five one-run games in a row for the first time in franchise history, which started in 1901.

They also have an eight-game winning streak in games decided by one run.

A large part of their recent run off success has been the pitching. And while the rotation tends to receive the majority of the credit, the bullpen as been more than holding its own.

The relief corps is very young, as setup man Grant Balfour is the lone veteran, with lefty Jerry Blevins the second-most experienced member of the unit, with under three years’ service time.

Oakland’s pitching staff has an AL-best 3.37 ERA overall — and the numbers for the bullpen are even better, a league-best 2.74. The bullpen’s 17 wins are second most in the league, and the .201 opponents’ average is the best in baseball.

That’s with a rookie closer, All-Star Ryan Cook, and a rookie left-handed setup man, Sean Doolittle, the latter a converted first basemen who didn’t make his first pro pitching appearance until last fall.

In the A’s 12-inning victory over the New York Yankees on Sunday, the bullpen turned in 5 1/3 scoreless innings, with Blevins throwing the final two.

And for the first time since the end of the 2006 season, the A’s are in a playoff spot, in a tie for the second wild-card spot and just a half-game behind the Los Angeles Angels for the first wild card.

They continue their stretch of games against American League East opponents today when they open a three-game sereis north of the border against the Toronto Blue Jays. Oakland will follow that up with three against the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards.

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