Late lead gets away from A's bullpen

Late lead gets away from A's bullpen

OAKLAND -- Sean Doolittle has appeared in five games in this young season, two of them ending with losses attached to his name. No matter the sample size, the A's closer is the last to shrug it off.

"I'll be here for a while tonight looking to see if there's a pattern," said Doolittle, barely removed from a game he'd like to rewrite, having surrendered a go-ahead, two-run homer to Angels catcher Geovany Soto in the ninth inning of a 5-4 loss, following a walk to C.J. Cron.

"I'm going to watch some video and see what adjustments I can make. I just feel like I've been a little inconsistent. I feel like the stuff is there. The execution has just not been as consistent as I need it to be. It is early in the season, but that's twice already."

On this night, Doolittle stood from the same spot he occupied a week ago, owning up to a mistake pitch -- a thigh-high fastball -- much in the same way he did after offering up a tie-breaking home run to Jimmy Rollins in the ninth inning of a loss to the White Sox.

Perhaps it would be easy for the lefty to deem it an anomaly, considering the tremendous work this A's bullpen has logged since. Doolittle, given the chance to do just that, instead offered this: "We take a lot of pride in what we do. We were handed a lead late in the game and I couldn't get the job done."

He wasn't the lone offender, though. Right-hander Ryan Madson, who has been perfect for the A's, took a 15-inning regular-season scoreless back to last year, endured his own troubles.

Madson yielded back-to-back singles to Yunel Escobar and Daniel Nava with one out in the eighth, settling down to strike out Mike Trout, before offering an 0-2 changeup to Albert Pujols that the Angels slugger deposited into left-center field for a two-run double to make it a one-run game.

"I just missed my pitch," Madson said. "It was a changeup, it got in, jammed him a little bit, but it was up enough so he could handle it. I knew that was kind of a safe pitch, wanted him to swing over the top of it, but it was up enough for him to get it in there.

"I looked on the replay, just popped up out of my hand."

Oakland's bullpen had allowed one run or fewer in seven of its first eight games -- giving up none in five of them -- for a 1.86 ERA, good for fifth in the American League. The group's collective 29 innings were most in the Majors, reflecting just how much the A's have leaned on these relievers.

"They had some pretty good hitters get some good at-bats off 'em," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "Both guys looked good out there. Albert hit a changeup. Soto probably hit a fastball that was down maybe a little but more than we see Sean pitching up. The bullpen's been great. You gotta give them credit, too."

Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @JaneMLB and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.