OAKLAND -- Two innings in, it didn't seem like Paul Blackburn would last very long.The A's starter had thrown 47 pitches and allowed four baserunners against the fourth-best hitting lineup in the American League. But none of them scored, and then Blackburn found his groove, retiring 14 of his last
OAKLAND -- Two innings in, it didn't seem like Paul Blackburn would last very long.
The A's starter had thrown 47 pitches and allowed four baserunners against the fourth-best hitting lineup in the American League. But none of them scored, and then Blackburn found his groove, retiring 14 of his last 15 batters, lasting 6 1/3 innings and outdueling Trevor Bauer in a 3-1 win over the Indians on Friday at the Coliseum.
Marcus Semien, Khris Davis and Jed Lowrie knocked in the runs as the A's won their fifth consecutive game -- and 11th of their last 13 -- to improve to a season-high seven games over .500. They are also 15-4 against the AL Central.
Blackburn's performance comes at a much-needed time for the righty, who has struggled this season since coming off the disabled list on June 5. After winning his first start, Blackburn was 0-2 with a 12.71 ERA in his last three outings; he allowed six runs on eight hits to the White Sox on Sunday.
"For me, it was finding a tempo and rhythm," Blackburn said.
Manager Bob Melvin said it's been a progression for Blackburn to get to where he is now. He still was searching in the first two innings, but he found it soon thereafter.
"Once you get over that hump in the second inning, I feel like everything was more put together and I'm not going step by step," Blackburn said. "It's more fluid and more athletic."
His only threat came in the second when two runners reached with one out, but Roberto Perez hit into a double play to end the inning. He struck out a career-high five batters, his fastball with good sink, his offspeed pitches coming to life -- the slider running in on lefties and the curveball staying down in the zone. It was his longest start since last August against the Angels.
"He located when he had to and he expanded when he had to," said Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor. "He did exactly what he wanted. I personally chased. I didn't stay with my approach. He beat us today. Hat off to him."
Blackburn, who showed promise last year in his rookie season, could provide a spark for a battered A's rotation that has used 12 different starting pitchers this season.
Yusmeiro Petit allowed a two-out RBI double to Lindor in the eighth that cut the A's lead to 2-1, but he struck out Michael Brantley with the tying run on the second. Blake Treinen earned his 21st save of the season in the ninth after Lowrie added an insurance run with a solo homer in the eighth.
The A's managed just enough offense, scoring single runs in the second and the sixth off Bauer, who struck out eight in 6 2/3 innings. Semien drove in Matt Olson with a two-out single in the second and Davis ripped a double to left to score Matt Joyce in the sixth.
The runs gave Blackburn a cushion to work with, which was important with Bauer on the mound for the Indians and runs at a premium.
"You know going in, you're probably not going to score a ton of runs," Melvin said. "If you can take the lead early, it gives you a lot of calmness as the game goes along."
The A's improved to 31-0 when leading after seven innings, the only team in the Majors to still be undefeated when leading after seven.
HE SAID IT
"It's nice to make a push getting past the midway point. This team's very talented. A lot of young guys, still trying to fill it out and come into their own." -- Treinen, on the A's recent success
MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
Lowrie's solo home run in the bottom of the eighth landed just over the yellow line above the right-field scoreboard, and was confirmed after a crew chief review.
It gave the A's a much-needed insurance run, as Treinen allowed Jose Ramirez and Rajai Davis, two fast runners, to reach in the ninth. But he had a two-run lead to work with.
"Games like that, it feels like a 10-run homer," Melvin said. "They have guys coming to the plate that get your attention in that last inning. It gives you a little bit of wiggle room. They've got a couple of guys on base too. If it's a one-run game, they're probably [stealing]."
Edwin Jackson will make his second start with the A's on Saturday after the veteran pitched well in his debut on Monday against the Tigers, allowing one run in six innings. The Indians will counter with Adam Plutko (4-1, 4.65 ERA) in the 1:05 p.m. PT match at the Coliseum.
Eric He is a reporter for MLB.com based in Oakland.