Doolittle's return from DL bolsters bullpen

Closer had been sidelined since Aug. 24 with intercostal strain

Doolittle's return from DL bolsters bullpen

SEATTLE -- The A's have been on the wrong end of more than half a dozen one-run games this month, all of them played without closer Sean Doolittle. So his return to the bullpen on Friday for the start of a crucial three-game series in Seattle provided relief in more than one way for this reeling club.

"It certainly sets up the bullpen better, as far as lining things up in each inning," said manager Bob Melvin. "Guys pretty much know who's going to be up, so it really gets things back in order."

The A's bullpen entered Friday with three blown saves and three losses over the last four games and had secured just one of seven save chances since Doolittle went on the disabled list Aug. 24 with a right intercostal strain.

Each of the team's last seven losses have been by one run, which matches the longest such streak in A's history dating back to 1901. They're 20-25 in one-run games overall this year, after going 30-20 in such contests in 2013.

With Doolittle available again for the ninth inning, former interim closer Eric O'Flaherty returns to a setup role with right-hander Luke Gregerson.

The A's also got Nick Punto back in their lineup Friday, marking the infielder's first start since Aug. 2, when he suffered a right hamstring strain that sidelined him for more than a month.

Craig Gentry (concussion symptoms) remained unavailable but Melvin said the outfielder was feeling better and noted that his headaches have subsided.

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