OAKLAND -- A's reliever Sean Doolittle was so consistent for the first two months of the season -- two runs allowed total in his first 23 outings -- that manager Bob Melvin said he thinks Doolittle right now is somewhat a victim of his own early success. That is, Melvin isn't fretting much over Doolittle's last two outings, in which the left-hander allowed two runs each to the Giants last Wednesday and the White Sox yesterday.
"We're just not used to seeing him get hit," Melvin said.
Doolittle said before today's series finale against the White Sox that he's also trying to keep the outings in perspective. He said he didn't locate well in the outing against the Giants, who scored twice against him in 1 1/3 innings.
"It was one of those games you feel a little too good and you start going a little too quick, and your ball stays up in the zone and comes back over the middle of the plate rather than staying on the corners," Doolittle said. "And they made me pay for it."
On Saturday, the White Sox tied the game in the seventh off Doolittle with two runs. Jeff Keppinger lined a single up the middle, catcher Hector Gimenez pulled a double down the left-field line and both scored on Alejandro De Aza's single to center.
"Yesterday I thought I pitched better," Doolitlte said. "I thought I was on location better for the most part, I was down in the zone when I wanted to be, especially early in counts.
"It's not something I'm beating myself up over. I give De Aza a lot of credit for that piece of hitting he did on the ball to center. I thought I made a really good pitch up and in and he did a good job getting his hands to it."
The pitch De Aza hit was an 0-2 fastball at 96 mph up and in, after Doolittle had gotten ahead on two pitches lower in the zone. As Doolittle said, De Aza pulled his hands through quickly enough to send a soft line drive to center, soft enough that the A's had no play on Gimenez coming around to score from second base.
"That's exactly what I wanted to do (on the pitch)," Doolittle said. "That's why I'm trying not to overanalyze it, beat myself up over it. I put the ball where I wanted to and it just didn't work."
Doolittle said while it was frustrating to execute pitches and not see the results Saturday, he's trying not to read too much into two outings. Doolittle still ranks second among A.L. relievers on the season in opponents' on-base percentage (.202), and Melvin said the A's still have "the same amount of confidence in Sean Doolittle as we always have."
"Right when you've got it figured out, the game has a way of humbling you," Doolittle said. "And I don't know, maybe that's part of what I'm going through right now.
"I feel like part of it's a little bit of bad luck, those hits starting to fall, and part of it is me not making pitches consistently like I was before. So it's a little bit of both, which I think will pass. You just have to ride it out and stick with your preparation and stuff."
* Here's the A's lineup today against White Sox left-hander Chris Sale:
And the White Sox against A's right-hander Jarrod Parker:
LF De Aza
* The A's are facing a left-hander in Sale for the seventh time in their last 10 games. That has meant lots of chances for Melvin to write out his right-handed-heavy lineup -- and a decline in regular at-bats for the left-handed halves of his platoons, such as first baseman Brandon Moss, catcher John Jaso and infielder Eric Sogard.
The lack of consistent at-bats makes it particularly difficult for a hitter like Moss, who is 8-for-64 (.125) over his last 23 games, to break out of a slump. Melvin acknowledged as much today, but said he thinks Moss has handled the situation well. Moss pinch-hit in the ninth inning yesterday and drew a walk after falling behind 0-2, then came up in the 10th with the bases loaded and one out and hit a line drive that Chicago second baseman Jeff Keppinger snagged on a dive to rob him of a game-winning hit.
"He probably feels like he hasn't faced a right-hander in two weeks," Melvin said of Moss. "For a guy that's been struggling, he's getting some tough assignments right there, but he continues to fight. The results haven't been there, but for me, I see the fight that he's putting up."
* The A's face a tough task today in Sale. For one thing, Sale has thrown 23 consecutive scoreless innings. He has also never lost a start against an A.L. West team. Sale is 10-0 with a 2.55 ERA in his career against the West, and is only the second pitcher (after Dock Ellis in 1976-77) to win his first 10 career decisions against West teams.
-- Matt Kawahara