Athletics

Healy exits early, Blackburn suffers first loss with A's

Healy exits early, Blackburn suffers first loss with A's

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NEW YORK — Michael Conforto hit a pair of two-run homers and Jerry Blevins rescued the Mets' bullpen with a five-out save as New York held off the Oakland Athletics 7-5 on Friday night for its third straight victory.

T.J. Rivera put the Mets ahead in the sixth inning with a two-run single that turned into a Little League home run. Rivera came all the way around to score on the play after third baseman Matt Chapman, trying to get Rivera at second, threw the ball away into right field for a costly error that made it 5-3.

Moments earlier, New York loaded the bases when Lucas Duda's bad-hop infield single struck first baseman Ryon Healy near the temple. Healy left the game and walked off under his own power with a swollen bruise next to his left eye.

Conforto's second homer made it 7-3 in the seventh. Oakland rallied for two in the eighth, but Blevins replaced closer Addison Reed with the bases loaded and got five straight outs against his former team for his fifth major league save and first this season.

Normally a lefty specialist, Blevins recorded five outs in a game for the first time since 2014 with Washington. He retired All-Star slugger Yonder Alonso on a foul popup and struck out Khris Davis to escape the eighth-inning jam.

"We just tried to find some matchups that worked," Mets manager Terry Collins said.

Yoenis Cespedes had three hits after raising eyebrows when he told the San Francisco Chronicle before the game that he wants to play the final season of his career in Oakland, his first big league team.

Cespedes, who signed a $110 million, four-year contract in the offseason to remain with the Mets, also said A's manager Bob Melvin is his favorite skipper and he doesn't think there's a better one.

"Bob's a great manager. I don't blame him," Collins said after the game. "This is the first I've heard of it."

After the game, Cespedes clarified his comments while speaking with reporters through a translator and said he meant no disrespect toward Collins or the Mets.

A's 2019 projections: Team could rely heavily on pitcher Daniel Mengden

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A's 2019 projections: Team could rely heavily on pitcher Daniel Mengden

Editor's note: Over the next few weeks, NBC Sports California will be analyzing a different A's player each day to project their numbers for next season.

Daniel Mengden has a golden opportunity in front of him this season. The 25-year-old right-hander will almost certainly earn a spot in the A's starting rotation out of spring training and will have a chance to remain there all year.

If the season started today, Mengden would likely slot in as Oakland's number two starter behind only veteran Mike Fiers. While the A's figure to add at least one more starting pitcher this offseason, they will still rely heavily on Mengden, especially in the first half of the season.

Mengden has shown flashes of brilliance in three Major League seasons but has lacked consistency. That was certainly the case last year when he posted a spectacular 1.51 ERA in the month of May but followed it up with an 11.57 ERA in June.

Overall last season, Mengden went 7-6 with a 4.05 ERA and 1.12 WHIP in 22 games, including 17 starts. For his career, he is 12-17 with a 4.64 ERA and 1.26 WHIP.

Mengden was demoted to Triple-A following his rough June but pitched well when he was recalled in August. In six appearances down the stretch, he compiled a 2.52 ERA.

When Mengden is at his best, he limits walks and induces ground balls. He runs into trouble when he falls behind in counts as he doesn't have overpowering stuff.

Baseball Reference projects Mengden to go 7-7 next season with a 4.08 ERA and 1.19 WHIP. They predict him to pitch 117 innings with 93 strikeouts and 34 walks.

We believe Mengden will put together the best season of his career. With three years under his belt, he has learned how to attack Major League hitters and should be comfortable in all situations.

[RELATED: Franklin Barreto could make impact in 2019]

Mengden has shown he can dominate big league hitters on a given night, recording complete game shutouts each of the last two seasons. The key for him in 2019 will be consistency.

Projection: 11-7, 3.71 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 104 K, 34 BB, 141 IP

A's 2019 projections: Mike Fiers looks to repeat strong performance

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USATSI

A's 2019 projections: Mike Fiers looks to repeat strong performance

Editor's note: Over the next few weeks, NBC Sports California will be analyzing a different A's player each day to project their numbers for next season.

When the A's non-tendered Mike Fiers in November, it seemingly marked the end of his tenure in green and gold. But just a few weeks later, Oakland re-signed the veteran right-hander to a two-year, $14.1 million deal, addressing their need for starting pitching.

Fiers performed well last year after coming over from the Tigers. The 33-year-old made 10 appearances with Oakland, including nine starts, going 5-2 with a 3.74 ERA and 1.06 WHIP. For the season, Fiers went 12-8 with a 3.56 ERA and 1.18 WHIP in 172 innings. In eight career seasons, he has an ERA of 4.04.

Fiers was especially effective at the Oakland Coliseum, going 3-0 with a 2.91 ERA in six starts. While he is not necessarily a strikeout pitcher, he does a great job limiting walks and should benefit from the A's solid defense behind him.

Baseball Reference projects Fiers to go 10-9 next season with a 4.22 ERA and 1.31 WHIP. They also predict 139 strikeouts in 160 innings.

We expect better numbers than that for Fiers, who will anchor the A's rotation, especially during the first half of the season. Although he allows a high percentage of fly balls, pitching at the Coliseum will benefit him, as will Oakland's stellar defense.

[RELATED: Fiers' two-year contract makes A's look like geniuses]

Last year marked Fiers' best season since 2014 when he posted an ERA of 2.13 with Milwaukee. He seems to be getting better with age as he continues to hone his command and mix his pitches. We see no reason for that to change next season.

Projection: 13-8, 3.69 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 141 K, 171 IP