There haven't been many positives for the last-place Oakland Athletics this season, but Paul Blackburn has been one of them.
The right-hander is 6-3 with a 3.12 ERA heading into Saturday afternoon's start against the host Seattle Mariners.
Blackburn has allowed more than four runs just once this season -- on June 22 when he gave up seven runs on 10 hits in a 9-0 loss to visiting Seattle.
"Tough one for Paulie. Not of the norm for him this year by any measure," A's manager Mark Kotsay said at the time. "He didn't have his best stuff. He tried to manage that lineup to get through it, but they've got some guys hitting really well. The result was they got him out of there a lot earlier than expected."
Blackburn hopes to do better against the Mariners' lineup this time, like his May 25 start at Seattle in which he allowed one hit over 5 1/ 3 scoreless innings in a 4-2 victory.
"Not good," Blackburn said in assessing his performance in his most recent start against Seattle. "I feel like I threw some good pitches and they hit them. They hit the bad pitches, too. It was just one of those nights where they were locked in. When I had to make a pitch, I couldn't make a pitch.
"I wouldn't say it's the worst I felt, stuff-wise, this year. It kind of came and went as the game went on. There were at-bats where I lost stuff and some where I had it. I just couldn't get in a rhythm all night."
Blackburn allowed home runs to Cal Raleigh and Jesse Winker in the loss. He's 2-3 with a 6.21 ERA in six career starts against Seattle.
"As much as we want to be perfect every outing, you have to be a realist," Blackburn said. "You're going to go out there sometimes and get beat. Sometimes you'll have your stuff and get beat. Sometimes you won't have any of your stuff and beat them. It's a long year with a lot of ups and downs."
The A's snapped a four-game losing streak Friday night with a 3-1 decision over the Mariners as Sean Murphy went 3-for-5 with a double, home run and two RBIs and James Kaprielian pitched six strong innings for his first win of the season. It was just Oakland's third victory in its past 20 games against Seattle.
The Mariners loaded the bases in the seventh, but Jesse Winker flew out to the warning track in center field to end the inning.
"I thought Winker hit the tar out of that ball, and he thought he got it too," Mariners manager Scott Servais said. "He worked himself into a good count, put a good swing on it and wish he would have pulled it a bit more. But that's baseball. It happens some nights."
The Mariners are set to send rookie right-hander George Kirby (2-3, 4.08 ERA) to the mound Saturday.
He was the winner in that June 22 game in Oakland, when he allowed five hits in six scoreless innings, with one walk and six strikeouts.
"He's got a good arm and life to the fastball," Kotsay said of Kirby. "A good breaking ball mix with the slider and curveball. He's tough. He's done a great job this year thus far. We tried to get to him. We did take some good at-bats, but we didn't get any runs across."
--Field Level Media