The Oakland Athletics turned to a pitcher to pinch hit in the final inning of a one-run game on Sunday afternoon. More puzzling than that fact on its own might be the fact that they turned to their closer Sean Doolittle was the man they chose for the job.
With Doolittle’s first big league at-bat coming in such a pressure packed situation, it is not terribly surprising that he did not come through to extend the game. He did reach his primary goal, however: don’t strike out. As passed along by Andrew Pentis of MLB.com:
“I was trying my best not to give them the satisfaction of ending the game on a punchout,” Doolittle said, “because I know how exciting that can be.”
Delve into Doolittle’s background further, however, and you find a guy that was actually a pretty option to swing the bat. Pentis writes the following:
After pitching — and hitting — at the University of Virginia, Doolittle spent the first four years of his pro career as a first baseman before switching to pitching because of injuries. He last swung the bat full time at Triple-A Sacramento in 2009.
“It’s tough to knock the rust off of three, four years,” Doolittle said, “in a matter of 10, 15 swings.”
Even with that rust, it makes sense that Doolittle was the guy called upon in that spot. Given the way things usually go for the A’s, combined with the way Doolittle has performed this season, it’s almost surprising that he didn’t come through with a hit. Instead they had to settle for winning three out of four games against the defending champs.