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Spring Game #15: A’s burned by Rangers

Blackburn and Mengden got roughed up, but it wasn’t as bad as it looks.

Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

The Oakland A’s lost on Saturday for the first time in a week. The pitching was ineffective and the B-team lineup was quiet, and the Rangers cruised to an 8-2 victory.

Paul Blackburn started the game for Oakland and ran into trouble immediately. His day began with a single to Rougned Odor and then a homer to Elvis Andrus, and just two batters into the game he was trailing by a pair of runs. Fortunately he settled down after that and avoided further damage, though he did mix in a couple walks.

After Blackburn’s start and a scoreless inning by Eric Jokisch, it was Daniel Mengden’s turn to get lit up. He gave up a five-spot in the 5th as Texas strung together a seemingly endless rally, but when the dust had cleared the whole thing was really just five singles and a walk. The box score is ugly, but Mengden was getting needled rather than blasted. He did give up a couple extra-base hits in the 6th that led to one more run, but otherwise he got back on the horse and finished out the game without further incident.

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Meanwhile, the A’s did almost nothing at the plate, which is fine because every team has a slow day now and then. Besides, today’s lineup featured exactly one name I expect to see starting on Opening Day (Matt Chapman). In the 5th inning they got a solo homer from Jake Smolinski, and in the 6th Jorge Mateo reached on an error and made his way around on a pair of singles by Franklin Barreto and Chad Pinder. That was about it.

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Key lines

A few notable performances in the box score:

  • Blackburn: 3 ip, 2 runs, 2 Ks, 2 BB, 2 hits, HR
  • Mengden: 4 ip, 6 runs, 4 Ks, 1 BB, 7 hits

Blackburn is in the same category as Kendall Graveman for me, in that the only thing I care about during spring is his walk total. Hits and even homers will happen because he pitches to contact, but he can’t afford to beat himself with free passes. Mengden gets a mulligan on this one as far as I’m concerned; remember that he was pitching with a minor league defense behind him. If anything, my takeaway here is that I’m actually encouraged to see him bounce back from his disaster inning to throw three more much stronger frames. Bulldog.

  • Smolinski: 1-for-2, HR

That’s his team-leading third dinger of the spring, tied with Khrush and Anthony Garcia. The A’s last platoon/outfield spot is one positional battle where a big Cactus League performance may actually play a role in the decision, and Smolinski is making a heck of a push to make the club. He also played CF in this game, though he did make a fielding error early on (appears to have been a missed catch?).

  • Pinder: 1-for-3, RBI
  • Barreto: 1-for-3, K

Strikeout update! Barreto has K’d in 8-of-32 plate appearances this spring. That’s still high, but it’s an improvement over last year. He’s also got five extra-base hits and a 1.022 OPS, so he’s hitting enough to make up for his misses.

The A’s play again Sunday, against the Cubs. Remember to set your clocks forward tonight, which will make tomorrow’s game start at 1:00.