Paul Blackburn

A's finally enjoying fruits of labor amid four-game win streak

The Athletics are playing with more confidence after winning their fourth straight game Saturday against the Brewers.

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Things are starting to come together for the Athletics.

With their 2-1 win in extra innings over the Milwaukee Brewers at American Family Field on Saturday, the A’s are riding their first four-game winning streak since 2021 -- and first under manager Mark Kotsay.

“This is a great stretch, and I think if you’ve been watching this club from April when it wasn’t great at all in any aspect of the game -- defense, hitting -- it’s just taken a while to get where we’re at,” Kotsay told reporters after the win. “But we’ve continued to work, we’ve continued with the processes, and it’s nice to see these results happening for this group.

“They’ve worked really hard, and it’s tough to gain confidence in a season when the results aren’t there. Now, you can kind of see the group collectively starting to believe in each other and form a culture together that is reflective of the performances of late.”

The A’s improved to 16-50 with the win, climbing their way back from a historically poor start to the 2023 MLB season, which featured just 10 wins in their first 50 games. Dating back to May 29, Oakland has won six of its last 11 games and taken series from both the Atlanta Braves and Pittsburgh Pirates.

They’ll go for a sweep of Milwaukee on Sunday thanks largely in part to another stellar outing by right-hander Paul Blackburn, who tossed six scoreless frames Saturday while striking out five Brewers and walking just one. Blackburn coincidentally also made his return from the IL on May 29 and since has pitched his way to a 3.60 ERA across three starts so far.

After Saturday’s win, Blackburn said he has noticed the A’s playing with more confidence as of late.

“We’ve played some really good teams the last four series ... I think that -- going in and beating good teams at their place -- definitely helps,” Blackburn told reporters after the win. “Momentum’s kind of huge. Any time you can gain a little momentum, no one knows how far that will take you, and being able to go out there and play good, solid baseball like I feel like we have over the last couple of weeks, it definitely gives the guys a lot of confidence.

“Just being able to come to the yard with a different sense of feeling inside, where it’s like, ‘We’re going to win today.’ “

Behind another solid Blackburn outing Saturday, the A’s were able to get one run across against Brewers starter Julio Teheran in the fifth inning and take a 1-0 lead. Milwaukee catcher Williams Contreras homered off Oakland reliever Richard Lovelady in the eighth to tie the game at one run apiece, and things went to extras after A’s pitcher Shintaro Fujinami held the Brewers in the ninth.

Enter Aledmys Diaz, who already had two hits Saturday as he came up to the plate in the tenth inning with Tony Kemp on second base. All it took was a single to give the A’s the lead and, eventually, their fourth straight win.

After the win, Diaz told NBC Sports California’s Brodie Brazil and Bip Roberts how it feels for the A’s to see their hard work pay off.

“I told the guys it’s a long season,” Diaz said. “We’ll start to get chemistry going, and we’re going to play better. It’s a long season. We’ve been showing up the last three weeks, [and] we’re capable [of doing] it. I’m happy for the boys.”

Now that they’ve reached their first four-game winning streak of the season, the A’s will look for the first sweep of their 2023 campaign Sunday in the series finale against Milwaukee. They had a chance to sweep the Braves in Atlanta last week, though their efforts ultimately fell short.

But with each win comes more confidence for Oakland. And that’s a great sign of more wins to come.

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