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Blackburn holds Seattle to one run in first win

A's rookie boasts 0.66 ERA after two big league starts
MLB.com

SEATTLE -- As impressive as Paul Blackburn's Major League debut was (one unearned run over six innings on Saturday) his second start showed A's manager Bob Melvin more of what Blackburn is made of.

"Your first start is kind of an out-of-body experience," Melvin said. "And then your second start is about performing."

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SEATTLE -- As impressive as Paul Blackburn's Major League debut was (one unearned run over six innings on Saturday) his second start showed A's manager Bob Melvin more of what Blackburn is made of.

"Your first start is kind of an out-of-body experience," Melvin said. "And then your second start is about performing."

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Blackburn did just that in his first MLB road start, allowing one run on seven hits in 7 2/3 innings against the Mariners at Safeco Field on Thursday night to earn his first Major League win, as the A's topped the Mariners, 7-4. His ERA stands at 0.66 after surrendering only 1 earned run in 13 2/3 innings.

"This lineup is never easy to face, but today he made it look easy," said A's catcher Bruce Maxwell, Blackburn's batterymate on Thursday. "Some hard-hit balls here or there, but he didn't give any at-bats away, any pitches away. That was a game-changer."

Even with Maxwell singing Blackburn's praises for his comfort level, Blackburn said he was more nervous on Thursday than he was for his debut. And for good reason.

He faced the team that traded him to Oakland for Danny Valencia this past offseason, and forced Valencia to ground out three times, including into a 6-4-3 double play, in three plate appearances against Blackburn.

"I was hoping it was going to happen anyways someday down the line," Blackburn said. "I don't know him personally, or anything. But it was kind of cool."

Blackburn also had about 20 friends and family members in attendance, most notably his mother, who grew up in nearby Everett, Wash.

"I was just trying to slow the game down in my head, not try to get where it's go, go, go," Blackburn said. "Just breathe. Deep breaths are what really helps me."

He was even able to keep calm even though his stuff was producing any decisive swings-and-misses, as he finished with no strikeouts. But inducing two double plays and receiving an outfield assist from center fielder Jaycob Brugman in the third inning helped him strand runners and get away with surrendering eight hits. His only blemish was a solo home run to Mitch Haniger in the fifth.

According to Statcast™, Blackburn's fastball was only hovering around 90 mph, but overpowering batters isn't Blackburn's forte. Instead, he thrives at mixing his pitches to keep hitters off-balance.

Thursday's performance displayed just that.

"It was a four-pitch mix today," Melvin said. "He probably has a better curveball than he thinks he has, threw a few more changeups. [The] slider, [with] subtle sink, [kept the] ball on the ground. But he used all four today and kept them off-balance."

Even though he was drenched in sweat as he strolled up to his postgame locker after 7 2/3 innings, his calling card in his short, but impressive, stint in the big leagues so far is his composure.

"I feel like he's comfortable," Maxwell said. "He belongs here."

Josh Horton is a reporter for MLB.com based in Seattle. He covered the A's on Thursday.

Oakland Athletics, Paul Blackburn