OAKLAND — After Thursday’s 4-1 win over the Kansas City Royals, Oakland Athletics starter Paul Blackburn said that he was dealing with all kinds of nerves. When do the nerves leave?
“When I’m done,” Blackburn said.
After missing the first two months of the season due to injury due to a forearm strain, Blackburn came off the disabled list and allowed just one run on three hits in six innings.
“This was worse than my debut,” Blackburn said after the game, talking about just the nerves and excitement he felt to be back pitching. “The last 48 hours have been pretty rough for me.”
Blackburn’s parents, Paul and Jennifer, said they were happy to see their son pitch so well after being dealt the tough blow of an injury in spring training after looking like he could crack the starting rotation. His mom said she could tell he got nervous a couple of times, like when he would take a deep breath on the mound both before the game in the bullpen and at different times in the first inning.
Catcher Jonathan Lucroy said he didn’t get that vibe at all from his pitcher. It was his first time catching Blackburn, and Lucroy said he particularly liked Blackburn’s sinker tonight and is “excited” for the next time he gets to catch him.
Even with a a short rehab start, Blackburn didn’t thought he wasn’t ready to start tonight.
“I believe in myself every time I’m out there,” Blackburn said.
Manager Bob Melvin really liked what he saw out of his pitcher.
“Boy, I tell you, that’s what we saw last year when he was at his best,” Melvin said. “Looked like he was way ahead of where he thought he’d be.”
It was a strong game offensively for the A’s (32-31), especially after two rough losses to the Texas Rangers, where the A’s outhit Texas 21-15 but were outscored 15-6.
With the game was tied at one apiece in the sixth, the A’s got to Royals starter Jason Hammel the third time through the lineup. With one out in the inning, Khris Davis singled and Matt Olson walked. Then, Kansas City center fielder Paulo Orlando lost Matt Chapman’s ball in the lights to bring Davis home and give Oakland a lead it wouldn’t relinquish — almost literally lights out for the Royals (21-42).
Marcus Semien singled to plate Olson and make the game 3-1, then Stephen Piscotty singled to score Chapman. Piscotty finished the night 3-for-3.
Olson has been on a tear in June, hitting .450/.500/.900 coming into this game. Thursday was his 10th hit and fourth home run this month.
The A’s first run of the game came courtesy of Olson, who hit his 13 homer of the year in the fourth on an 82 mph slider, tying the game up after Alcides Escobar hit a solo shot in the third.
“I’m starting to feel good at the plate,” Olson said. “I’m getting a little more comfortable with my swing as the year is going on.”
Oakland’s bullpen — Lou Trivino in the seventh inning, Yusmeiro Petit in the eighth and Blake Treinen to close it out — had another solid night, allowing no runs and just one hit in three innings. And centerfielder Dustin Fielder made a spectacular catch, which lead to Melvin saying of the rookie, “He’s got a really good chance to be a great player all-around.”
But as strong a night as others had, the night — rightly — belonged to Blackburn.
This article originally appeared here.