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A's back Blackburn's dominant debut vs. Royals

MLB.com @JaneMLB

OAKLAND -- Paul Blackburn's return to a wobbly A's rotation was cause for celebration at the Coliseum on Thursday night.

The party went as planned: The right-hander was stellar in his season debut, and the A's used a three-run sixth inning to pull ahead of the Royals for a 4-1 series-opening victory.

View Full Game Coverage

OAKLAND -- Paul Blackburn's return to a wobbly A's rotation was cause for celebration at the Coliseum on Thursday night.

The party went as planned: The right-hander was stellar in his season debut, and the A's used a three-run sixth inning to pull ahead of the Royals for a 4-1 series-opening victory.

View Full Game Coverage

Finally, Blackburn can eat.

"The last 48 hours have been pretty rough for me," he said. "I don't think I've ate anything. I was just sitting there, stomach turning. It was excitement with nerves, with just everything, getting back out there and competing with the guys."

Video: KC@OAK: Chapman cranks RBI double off the wall

The 24-year-old was pitching in a big league game for the first time since Aug. 22, when he took a line drive to his pitching hand in Baltimore and suffered a deep bone bruise. He succumbed to injury yet again in Spring Training and was ruled out of the Opening Day rotation with a forearm strain, making just one Minor League rehab start with Class A Advanced Stockton before the A's -- desperate for healthy arms -- called on his services.

Blackburn responded with a gem, not once finding himself in a three-ball count. Pitted against a pitch limit of 75, he needed just 67 to get through six solid innings -- throwing 52 of them for strikes. He allowed a single run, yielding a third-inning homer to Alcides Escobar, and didn't walk a batter, fanning three in an outing that mirrored several he scripted in his 2017 rookie season.

"Boy, I tell you, that's what we saw last year probably when he was at his best," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "Getting early-count contact and going six innings, I didn't expect that. It looked like he was way ahead of where we thought he would be."

Video: KC@OAK: Melvin on Blackburn start, Olson heating up

Matt Olson also launched his 13th homer of the season in the win, which put the A's back over .500 at 32-31 after losing two straight in Arlington.

"Obviously Texas didn't go the way we wanted, so to come here and get a solid team win was good," Olson said. "I felt like I was on all the pitches I was fouling off and just missing them, and I finally connected with that last one."

The A's put Blackburn in the win column with a one-out rally against former Oakland pitcher Jason Hammel in the sixth, getting run-scoring hits from Matt Chapman, Marcus Semien and Stephen Piscotty.

Video: KC@OAK: Piscotty scorches RBI single to plate Chapman

"When a guy performs like that, you always want to score some runs for him," Melvin said. "They want to reward him."

The bullpen did its part with three scoreless innings, one apiece from Lou Trivino, Yusmeiro Petit and Blake Treinen, who secured his 14th save.

Video: KC@OAK: Treinen pitches perfect 9th to nail down save

SOUND SMART
Olson has hit safely in each of his last seven games for the longest streak of his career.

"You have these ups and downs where you seem to be on time with things," he said. "I've found myself in a good position to hit on a lot of different pitches lately."

Video: KC@OAK: Olson belts a solo homer to center field

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Center fielder Dustin Fowler charged a sinking line drive off the bat of Ramon Torres for a spectacular play to end the eighth inning.

"Sometimes our outfield can be an acquired taste," Melvin said. "It's really kind of having the courage to come in on balls. We don't make that play too often. Any center fielder in the big leagues, that's an excellent play."

Video: KC@OAK: Fowler charges in and lays out to rob Torres

HE SAID IT
"I trusted [catcher] Jonathan Lucroy with everything tonight. I didn't shake one time. Any time he put a sign down, I had conviction with everything." -- Blackburn

UP NEXT
Right-hander Frankie Montas, who is 2-0 with a 0.64 ERA in two starts since being recalled from Triple-A Nashville, will toe the rubber for the A's in Friday's 7:05 p.m. PT matchup with the Royals at the Coliseum. Montas fired eight scoreless innings last Friday in Kansas City. The Royals will counter with righty Jakob Junis (5-5, 3.62 ERA).

Jane Lee has covered the A's for MLB.com since 2010. Follow her on Twitter @JaneMLB.

Oakland Athletics, Paul Blackburn, Matt Chapman, Matt Olson