ARLINGTON -- The A’s entered the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader at Globe Life Park with two goals: win the game and preserve the bullpen. They accomplished one of those objectives.
Oakland dropped the first of two games on the day against the Rangers, 10-5, but it did so only having to go through three pitchers.
Ryan Dull surrendering a three-run homer to Tim Federowicz in the fifth that put Texas ahead by six was the point in the game where the A’s shifted their focus to damage control with a bullpen that was already down a couple of arms due to overuse in the past week.
“He had a little trouble locating,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said of Dull. “You’re out there for a while and it gets hot, but have to bear down and push through it. He knew he’d be out there for a couple of innings. Just wasn’t his day.”
Dull recovered from the home run and was able to give Melvin one more inning of work before right-hander Aaron Brooks took over to finish off the final three frames.
It was a tough position for Brooks. Seldom used over the past month with just two innings of work since May 16, the right-hander knew he had to provide some length with the looming nightcap of the twin bill. Brooks did exactly that, shutting the Rangers' offense down as he allowed just two hits with four strikeouts, showcasing the stuff that reminded Melvin of why Brooks earned a spot in the Opening Day rotation.
“That was huge for us,” Melvin said. “He knew he had to finish the game and was efficient. It looked like he had some good life. It looked like the stuff we saw when he was pitching well. To do that with the time off he had was impressive.”
Stifled early on by Rangers rookie starter Joe Palumbo, who was making his Major League debut, the A’s offense made some adjustments and found success against the left-hander in its second time through the order.
Matt Olson crushed a two-run homer off Palumbo in the fourth, highlighting a four-run inning that ended up being his last on the mound, but the Rangers’ bullpen limited Oakland to just one run the rest of the way.
Hundley heads to IL
After falling to his left knee on an awkward swing in the fourth, catcher Nick Hundley departed the game in the middle of his at-bat with what the A’s diagnosed as back spasms. Melvin said Hundley began to feel the back pain during his first at-bat of the game, when he flied out to right in the third. Josh Phegley replaced Hundley on a 2-2 count and doubled home two runs. He also homered in the seventh and started the nightcap of the doubleheader.
The back spasms are forcing Hundley to the 10-day injured list. In need of a second catcher, the A’s selected the contract of Beau Taylor from Triple-A Las Vegas, where he is batting .297 with five home runs and 20 RBIs over 38 games. He was expected to arrive at Globe Life Park just in time for Game 2.
Called up from Triple-A Las Vegas before the game, A’s starter Paul Blackburn struggled in his 2019 debut. His 41-pitch first inning almost led to a disaster for the A’s bullpen plan as Brooks began to warm up in the same inning, but Blackburn pitched out of it with a strikeout of Rougned Odor. The right-hander lasted just three innings, allowing five runs on five hits and three walks with four strikeouts.
A’s pitching coach Scott Emerson made a visit to Blackburn at the mound during the three-run first inning with a message to work a little faster. The Rangers swiped three bases in the inning, which may have been a product of a slower-than-usual delivery to the plate from Blackburn. He worked a quicker scoreless second inning, but surrendered another two runs in the third when Nomar Mazara sent an 0-2 slider over the wall in center.
“I felt like I got to two strikes in my favor more than I have in the past, but I didn’t have a feel for my offspeed stuff,” Blackburn said. “I couldn’t put guys away.”