OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Athletics pitcher Paul Blackburn couldn’t wait for the postgame meal following his first start of the season. Jittery nerves kept the right-hander from eating beforehand, and he was anxious to dig in.
Matt Chapman doubled in the go-ahead run in the sixth inning to make a winner of Blackburn in his season debut, and Oakland beat the Kansas City Royals 4-1 on Thursday night.
“The last 48 hours have been pretty rough for me,” said Blackburn, who was activated off the disabled list before the game. “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.”
Matt Olson hit his 13th home run, Stephen Piscotty singled three times and Marcus Semien added two hits and an RBI to help the A’s to their third win in four games against the Royals over the past seven days.
But Oakland’s pitching was the difference.
Blackburn (1-0) missed the first two months of the season with a strained right forearm he suffered late in spring training. The right-hander yielded three hits, including Alcides Escobar’s home run in the third and induced 11 groundouts over six innings.
“That’s what we saw last year probably when he was at his best,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “I didn’t expect that. It looks like he’s ahead of where we thought he’d be.”
Blackburn was encouraged by his second career start against the Royals.
“My legs got a little tired in the sixth,” he said. “It was getting ahead of guys early, early contact, just letting them hit the ball on the ground.”
Kansas City’s Jason Hammel (2-6) matched Blackburn until Oakland broke through for three runs in the sixth.
After Hammel retired Jed Lowrie on a fly ball, Khris Davis singled and moved to second when Olson walked. Chapman then hit a towering fly ball that hit near the top of the wall. Royals center fielder Paulo Orlando appeared to have a good jump on it but got twisted around near the wall before the ball ricocheted off the fence, allowing Davis to score.
“It was obvious (we) were having trouble seeing the ball,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “It was the time of night. It’s that rough period when the ball goes up, sometimes you just need help. By the time (Orlando) picked it back up, it was too late.”
Semien and Piscotty followed with back-to-back RBI singles.
Lou Trivino and Yusmeiro Petit retired three batters apiece for Oakland. Blake Treinen pitched the ninth for his 14th save.
Oakland finished with nine hits. In doing so, the A’s avoided becoming the first team since the 1910 Chicago White Sox to go 14 consecutive games at home with seven or fewer.
Hammel allowed four runs on eight hits in six innings against his former club. He struck out six and walked one.
The Royals have lost five straight.
“Offensively we’re struggling right now,” Yost said. “It goes in cycles. We’re just not swinging the bats well as a group.”
Olson’s home run off Hammel in the fourth extended his hitting streak to a career-high seven games.
A’s rookie center fielder Dustin Fowler made a diving catch on Ramon Torres’ sinking liner to end the eighth.
“I thought Hammel threw great. One of the best performances I’ve seen him throw since we’ve had him. Even the pitches he got hurt on . he was really, really good.” – Yost on his starting pitcher.
Royals: Orlando was recalled from Triple-A Omaha before the game and took the roster spot left vacant when Jon Jay was traded to Arizona in exchange for a pair of minor leaguers Wednesday.
Athletics: Catcher Bruce Maxwell was optioned to Triple-A Nashville. … OF Boog Powell (sprained right knee) was transferred to 60-day disabled list. … RHP Santiago Casilla (shoulder strain) is expected to come off the DL soon.
RHP Frankie Montas (2-0, 0.64 ERA) pitches for Oakland on Friday night. Montas has allowed one run over 14 innings since being called up from the minors May 27. The Royals counter with RHP Jakob Junis (5-5, 3.62).