Strong 'pen performance sparks confidence

A's notch three scoreless innings in relief of Gray for fifth straight win

Strong 'pen performance sparks confidence

ARLINGTON -- The A's avoided their fifth consecutive losing month with a 6-3 win over the Rangers on Thursday, tying the bow on a three-game road sweep that lifted them from the bottom of the division standings for the first time since May 7.

The A's sit above the Mariners in fourth place by a sliver of a percentage, having won five in a row and nine of their past 11. They're 20-11 since May 22, after bottoming out a season-high 16 games under .500 (14-30).

"It's big," Josh Reddick said. "Last second half was not fun to be a part of. It was rough, and a lot of struggles there. We kind of seemed to pick up where we left off the end of last year. For us to get out of that grind, get out of that hole, is something we needed for a long time. I wish it would've happened earlier, but at this point, you'll take it. We're playing great baseball right now."

The A's are impressing in every facet of the game, notably in the bullpen. In three games against the Rangers, an A's bullpen that's carrying an American League-worst 4.38 ERA allowed just one unearned run in nine innings of work -- including three in relief of Sonny Gray on Thursday.

Closer Tyler Clippard was needed for just one of those -- notching his 13th save with a perfect ninth inning -- after getting three days off following back-to-back outings of a combined 62 pitches. That the A's were able to rely on those behind him was crucial.

"Success breeds confidence, and you can feel everyone in the dugout feels now that, at least this series, we had a good chance when those guys came in," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "It's the bullpen that I would have to say has been our Achilles heel, and when they're contributing, now we just feel good as a team and feel like everybody is contributing. It makes for a better feeling in the clubhouse and makes for more wins, too."

"It is nice to see that we're starting to play a lot better in all areas of the game," Sam Fuld said.

Left-hander Drew Pomeranz, who began the year in the rotation, provided three scoreless innings in the series, and he hasn't allowed a run in eight of 10 relief appearances since coming off the disabled list June 3. Righty Edward Mujica came through in critical situations, too, helping form an encouraging body of work from a typically shaky bullpen.

"With Pomeranz in the role we saw him in the other night, a late lefty that can go through some righties, and with Mujica being healthy again and doing what he did, which we haven't seen a whole lot of here, hopefully after the last couple of days, they're feeling more confident about coming in and contributing," Melvin said. "It's one thing to have individual confidence, it's another to have group confidence, and I think that went a long way in giving us that group-type of confidence.

"Everybody has been in, and everyone has contributed. It gives you that group sense that we can do this."

Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.