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Mengden shows he might be here to stay

Righty continues dominance by Oakland's starting pitchers in Detroit
@MartinJGallegos
May 18, 2019

DETROIT -- When Daniel Mengden was recalled from Triple-A Las Vegas last week, it wasn’t necessarily for a permanent stay. His first start was mainly to give Mike Fiers an extra day of rest, and A’s manager Bob Melvin indicated that the right-hander’s duration in the Majors would be dependent

DETROIT -- When Daniel Mengden was recalled from Triple-A Las Vegas last week, it wasn’t necessarily for a permanent stay. His first start was mainly to give Mike Fiers an extra day of rest, and A’s manager Bob Melvin indicated that the right-hander’s duration in the Majors would be dependent upon performance. He’ll be up here for a while with more starts like this.

Mengden kept the string of strong starts by A’s pitchers going in Saturday’s 4-1 win over the Tigers at Comerica Park, allowing just one run on three hits and two walks with five strikeouts over seven innings. The only run he allowed came on a wild pitch.

With Aaron Brooks moving to the bullpen after beginning the season in the Opening Day rotation, that’s one spot available for Mengden to grab and run with.

Box score

“It’s always performance-based if you’re going to stay, but the plan all along was not just to spot-start,” Melvin said. “We were going to add Daniel to the mix because he was pitching pretty well in Triple-A and now he’s pitching well here.”

Since April 28, the A’s starting rotation has posted a 2.93 ERA. It’s the second-best ERA over that span behind the Twins, who entered the day at 2.75. The A’s have received starts of at least seven innings in the last three games from Chris Bassitt, Frankie Montas and now Mengden. All three played together in the organization’s Minor League system, envisioning themselves performing like this at the Major League level one day.

“We know what we’re capable of,” Mengden said. “We’ve pitched with each other for a long time now and know each other well. We can go six to eight innings every outing and want to be that backbone for the team. As a group right now, we’re really happy where we are and want to keep going.”

It was a slow start to the game for Mengden as he issued both of his walks in a 21-pitch first inning. In danger of building up another early high pitch count after throwing 52 through two innings in his season debut against Cleveland last week, Mengden settled down with an eight-pitch second this time around and soon began to rely on a good mix of pitches, highlighted by his slider, which he used as the knockout pitch to record three of his five strikeouts.

“Usually the slider is the go-to pitch and [in my] last two outings it’s been heavy fastball-slider,” Mengden said. “They really gave it to me throughout the game being aggressive. I just tried to keep them off-balance and had a good amount of first-pitch strikes with it as well.”

Not a particularly hard thrower -- his fastball topped out at 94 mph on Saturday -- Mengden relied on his assortment of pitches, which include a slider, curveball, changeup and cutter along with a two-seam and four-seam fastball, to get ahead in the count. He threw a first-pitch strike to 13 of his final 21 batters faced before handing it over to the back-end bullpen duo of Lou Trivino and Blake Treinen with just 95 pitches after seven innings.

Mengden knew the first-pitch strikes would be essential after observing the aggressiveness of Tigers hitters over the first two games of the series, and he executed that plan well on Saturday.

“He was outstanding,” A’s catcher Nick Hundley said. “Threw all his pitches for strikes, elevated when he wanted to and if he got behind in the count, he was able to throw his off-speed for strikes.”

Supplying the power

Hundley and Chad Pinder backed Mengden’s strong outing by continuing the A’s power surge on offense. Hundley’s two-run homer was his first of the year, while Pinder smashed a solo shot for his fifth of the season and second in as many games.

It’s been tough for Hundley to get it going at the plate with increasingly reduced playing time as Josh Phegley continues to emerge as the primary catcher. After collecting only one extra-base hit for the month of April, Hundley now has three in May.

“The last couple of weeks I feel like I’ve been in a much better place than I was the first couple of weeks of the season,” Hundley said. “Getting to a point where I feel comfortable after putting a lot of time in.”

Both homers came off Tigers left-handed starter Matthew Boyd, as the A’s continue to torment southpaws, leading the Majors with 26 home runs off lefties this season.

They’ve also crushed nine home runs over their first three games in Detroit, most of those coming from the bottom of the order as opposed to the usual suspects like Khris Davis (who was scratched from the starting lineup prior to the game to rest his hip) and Matt Chapman, who have yet to homer this series.

“We’re stringing together good at-bats. Quality at-bats up and down the lineup,” Hundley said. “We’re dangerous one through nine and we’re proving that in this series.”

Historic streak

The A’s picked up their 15th straight win against the Tigers. The winning streak goes back to May 6, 2017, and is now tied for their second longest streak against one club since moving to Oakland in 1967. Their longest is 16 in a row against the Yankees, which they built up from 1989-91.

Martin Gallegos covers the A's for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @MartinJGallegos.