Paul Blackburn

Kotsay proud of A's ‘fight' in first win of season vs. Guardians

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As the 2024 MLB season's opening weekend wound down, the Athletics had yet to win a game until a walk-off walk from pinch hitter Abraham Toro clinched a 4-3 victory over the Cleveland Guardians on Sunday at Oakland Coliseum.

Propelled by a strong outing from starting pitcher Paul Blackburn, who struck out three, walked one and allowed three hits across seven scoreless innings, Oakland appeared to be cruising to a shutout victory until a rough eighth inning let Cleveland back in the game due to shortstop Nick Allen’s error.

Still, A’s manager Mark Kotsay was pleased with how the team responded and battled throughout the game.

“Nobody wants to start 0-4,” Kotsay told reporters after the game. “I was proud of the effort, proud of the fight back that we showed after that eighth inning. That’s a good sign of this club [that they have] the energy to bounce back and turn things [around].

“We do need to add on to the lead to make it a little more comfortable, but a win is a win and we got it done today.”

The A's scored their first two runs of the game in the first inning after JJ Bleday's RBI triple and Seth Brown's RBI single two at-bats later. Bleday's RBI single in the third made it 3-0.

While Oakland’s bats came alive early in the game, it was Blackburn’s dominant performance that set the tone and kept Cleveland quiet on offense. Given that the Guardians had outscored the A’s 26-7 over the first three games of the season, shutting down Cleveland’s bats was huge.

Blackburn, who figures to continue his duties as Oakland’s ace starting pitcher, was happy with his performance, noting how difficult it is to face a tough team like Cleveland.

“Especially against a team like that, a team that doesn’t swing and miss much, a team that grinds out every at bat one through nine — just being able to keep them off balance the way that we did today shows the gameplan we had,” Blackburn told reporters.

Guardians reliever Scott Barlow walked Ryan Noda to start the bottom of the ninth and after an infield hit from Shea Langeliers, the rally was officially on. After Toro’s four-pitch, bases-loaded walk that ended the game, the A’s moved to 1-3 on the season.

Oakland still faces an uphill battle to return to relevancy in the American League West after two straight seasons of 100-plus losses, but Sunday's performance from Blackburn along with their offense has the A's feeling hopeful in the early goings of the 2024 campaign.

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