Instant Analysis: Five takeaways as Blackburn halts A's skid

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways as Blackburn halts A's skid


ANAHEIM — Paul Blackburn’s pitching style probably doesn’t wow A’s fans.

To appreciate his work, however, just look at the score and the position the A’s are in when he leaves the game.

The rookie turned in another stellar outing Saturday night, working 6 2/3 scoreless innings and setting the A’s up nicely for a 5-0 victory to snap a string of seven consecutive losses at Angel Stadium.

What an odd route the A’s took offensively. Their biggest hit of the night came from catcher and No. 9 hitter Dustin Garneau, who singled home two runs in his first game as an Athletic.

They got another run when Mark Canha swiped home on a double-steal attempt in the sixth, the A’s first steal of home since Carlos Gonzalez did it more than nine years ago.

The constant was Blackburn (3-1), who notched his fifth quality start in seven major league outings and lowered his ERA from 3.05 to 2.60. He held the Angels to five hits and didn’t issue a walk. He struck out just one, instead keeping his defenders busy and limiting the hard contact off the Angels’ bats.

He’s just the fourth pitcher in Oakland history to throw more than five innings in each of his first seven games, joining Willie Adams, A.J. Griffin and Bill Krueger.

Here’s five things to know as the A’s evened this three-game series at a game apiece:

RAJAI ON THE RUN: The veteran speedster continued his inspired play of late, going 2-for-5 and stealing three bases from the leadoff spot. He wasted no time, singling in the first, then stealing second and third and scoring on a wild pitch. Davis is hitting .339 with 15 runs and 13 stolen bases over his past 23 games. Yet he wasn’t the A’s biggest story on the base paths …

CANHA PULLS A SURPRISE: Davis was on first and Mark Canha on third when the A’s pulled a double steal in the sixth. Catcher Martin Maldanado’s throw went through to second, and Canha broke for home, executing the A’s first steal of home since Carlos Gonzalez did it June 22, 2008 against the Marlins.

THE NEW GUY CONTRIBUTES: Not only was Garneau calling pitches for the A’s fourth shutout of the sason, he chipped in with a two-out two-run single in the fourth that extended the A’s lead to 3-0. Garneau was claimed off waivers from Colorado on Friday, and he’s from Orange County, so it was a big night for him.

KEEPING THINGS IN CHECK: The Angels top five hitters can do some damage, but A’s pitchers held them to a 4-for-20 night combined. That included a quiet 1-for-4 night from noted A’s killer Mike Trout.

MAKING AN APPEARANCE: A’s bench coach Mark Kotsay, on a leave of absence while he spends time with his daughter Sienna during a medical issue, joined the A’s on Saturday and will also be on hand Sunday. He lives in nearby Rancho Santa Fe. Sienna Kotsay was hit by a tennis ball in her right eye and was experiencing partial vision loss in the eye. Her vision is improving, but there’s still no timetable for Kotsay to rejoin the A’s full-time.

A's hire Matt Williams as third base coach


A's hire Matt Williams as third base coach

OAKLANDThe Oakland A’s named Matt Williams as third base coach on Bob Melvin’s coaching staff for the 2018 season, the club announced today.

Williams spent five seasons on the Arizona Diamondbacks coaching staff as first base coach (2010) and third base coach (2011-13, 16) and also managed the Washington Nationals for two seasons.  He was named National League Manager of the Year by the BBWAA in his first season as manager in 2014, guiding the Nationals to a 96-66 record and an NL East title.  He went 83-79 in 2015 for a 179-145 (.552) record in two seasons as manager.

Williams played 17 seasons in the majors with San Francisco (1987-96), Cleveland (1997) and Arizona (1998-2003).  He was a .268 career hitter with 378 home runs and 1218 RBI in 1866 games.  Williams was a five-time All-Star and won four Gold Gloves as a third baseman.

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Ryon Healy trade has domino effect


Ryon Healy trade has domino effect

The A’s wasted no time making their first major move of the offseason, and it has a domino effect on how their 2018 lineup will take shape.

The trade of young slugger Ryon Healy to the Seattle Mariners on Wednesday paves the way for left fielder Khris Davis to start getting heavy at-bats as the designated hitter, the spot left vacant by Healy.

It also points to another move the A’s want to pull off — acquiring a right-handed hitting corner outfielder who presumably can eat up those defensive innings that Davis spends as the DH.

It’s a series of moves that isn’t all that surprising given the A’s roster makeup right now. Healy, who hit .282 with 38 homers in 221 games over his first two big league seasons, is capable of playing either first or third base. But Matt Olson and Matt Chapman secured those spots, respectively, with their solid showings as rookies last season.

“We’ve obviously talked a lot since the end of the season about adding to the bullpen,” A’s general manager David Forst said on a conference call Wednesday night. “At the same time, with the emergence of Matt and Matt, on the corners, maybe Ryon needed to be somebody we might have to move ...”

It makes sense for Oakland to find a way to shift Davis from being the everyday left fielder while still keeping his 40-homer bat in the lineup. Opponents have routinely taken extra bases the past two seasons on Davis’ throwing arm, and whether they add a newcomer to play left or shift Joyce or someone else there, chances are they can benefit from better defense in left.

The A’s also feel they got an important chip back from Seattle to help bolster a bullpen that ranked 13th in the American League last season with a 4.57 ERA. They received right-hander Emilio Pagan (along with minor league shortstop Alexander Campos), and figure that the 26-year-old Pagan is someone the A’s have pegged to be an immediate contributor in their ‘pen.

A 10th round draft pick in 2013, Pagan made his big league debut in 2017 and posted a 3.22 ERA over 34 games spread over four stints with Seattle. He endured a rocky first couple of outings but, after being called up for good in the second half, eventually worked his way into a late-inning setup role. Pagan struck out 56 and walked just eight in 50 1/3 innings, numbers that surely popped out to Oakland’s front office.

He’ll likely be called upon in middle relief to help set the table for Chris Hatcher and closer Blake Treinen, as the bullpen currently looks.

Campos, just 17, spent this past season in the Dominican Summer League, and Forst said the A’s were eyeing Campos last summer when they eventually traded Yonder Alonso to the Mariners. Oakland wound up getting center fielder Boog Powell back in that deal.

Did the A’s rake in enough for Healy? As with all trades, it will take time to judge. But it’s fair to say that Healy’s departure will be felt in a clubhouse that is characterized by the emergence of many young position players, and he was a part of that group. In fact, when Healy was called up in July 2016 — knocking Danny Valencia out as the regular third baseman — he became the first of several promising position-player prospects to establish himself in Oakland’s lineup.

He rented a house in the East Bay and eventually took in Chapman, Olson and Chad Pinder as roommates. There’s a fiery side to Healy’s on-field personality that was a positive for the A’s, and watching him play Oakland as a member of an AL West rival will make for entertaining theatre.

Another storyline is how Davis takes to being a regular DH. Forst praised Davis’ approach to his game and doesn’t anticipate any problems, adding that the A’s still want to get Davis some time in the outfield.