A’s bullpen arrives, helps secure series win over Royals

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KANSAS CITY – Relying on A’s lifters enclosure carries a risk of delay. The group woke up on Thursday allowing nearly a point of an inning in September. Starter Paul Blackburn reached the sixth of their series final in Kansas City. Manager Bob Melvin turned to his relief corps with a two-point lead, requiring 12 strikeouts.

Deolis Guerra got six. Guerra entered with the Royals in the first and second and no outs. He’s been among Melvin’s best options recently, with a 2.61 ERA since the end of July. His inherited runners have not budged. Guerra got one strikeout, one strikeout and one ground ball on 10 pitches, just two above 90 mph. He came back for the seventh and blocked two men by taking out Salvador Perez, the majors’ co-leader in the home circuits, who rolled to the ground on a first-pitch slider.

“We rely on him in roles he’s probably never had before,” Melvin said of Guerra. “Not only to get us out of this jam, but to come back and give us another run as well, probably his best performance for us this year.”

Andrew Chafin, who threw 26 shots on Wednesday night, returned for 15 more. Hanser Alberto’s brace saw the Royals finish second and third with one out. Chafin thrives on weak contact. The left-hander averages less than one strikeout per inning. He still scored two, throwing seven sliders on nine shots, to leave the potential equalizer in second.

The A’s increased their lead in the ninth. A 7-2 win gave them a series victory in Kansas City and was more like the heavy formula that has fueled them this season.

“Obviously for us to bounce back from such a tough loss in Game 1 shows a good bit of resilience and not get discouraged,” utility Chad Pinder said. “You must like this in the future.”

Blackburn’s first run didn’t promise a long start. The right-hander produced his second batter on four pitches. His next, Perez, smashed a cutter for a two-run homer, his 45th of the season. He tied Perez with Johnny Bench for the most part in one season by a main receiver. Two other Royals hit singles. The bullpen began to stir.

But then Blackburn took hold. Shortstop Elvis Andrus pierced Hunter Dozier’s liner to end the first inning, the first of nine in a row Blackburn pulled out. Dozier doubled with two strikeouts in the fourth; Blackburn caused a popout from Kyle Isbel. Sebastian Rivero scored to start the fifth; Blackburn erased it on a double play field.

“We talked about how they’re going to be aggressive and they came out aggressive,” Blackburn said. “Murphy and I talked about this throughout the game: if they have to be aggressive that’s okay, but let’s just keep shaking things up, swing them on our grounds and don’t go into them. “

Blackburn, who was making his sixth start since his recall from AAA in early August, had not finished fourth of his previous two. He recorded his first major league victory since 2018, ending an eight-starter streak.

“I always thought I would be back here to help these guys no matter what time of year (of the season),” Blackburn said. “Yes, this is my first victory. But this end of the season, where we are now, it’s just a huge victory for us in general.

The Oakland offense woke up in a strange third inning. Royals starter Daniel Lynch walked Andrus and slapped Tony Kemp on the right arm. Josh Harrison scored to mark Andrus. Bad play on Starling Marte’s ground player loaded Matt Olson’s groundwork with no takedown.

Olson worked a full account. Lynch didn’t finish it. A coach appeared to watch him after the fifth pitch, and Lynch walked away with what the Royals called a calf tightness. Relief Joel Payamps replaced him and almost escaped the jam. Olson hit a liner at Merrifield, which passed Marte on first base.

With a right handed pitcher, Melvin played a bench card. Jed Lowrie, limited to left-handed hitter due to a wrist issue, replaced designated forward Khris Davis. Lowrie sent a ground player down the right side who knocked out first baseman Ryan O’Hearn. Merrifield blocked him, with an apparent chance of throwing Lowrie out. He didn’t take it. Kemp scored and Chad Pinder added a two-run single for a 4-2 lead.

A’s attack went smoothly until the ninth. Brentz hit Andrus, the 89th time an Oakland player has been hit by a pitch this season, a new record, and Andrus has scored on three wild shots. Harrison added a two-point brace for his fourth hit of the game. Harrison has had 10 RBIs in his last six games since first place.

“As much as we can’t look to the future, neither can we look to the past,” Pinder said. “It doesn’t matter if it was good, bad, ugly in any facet of the game, we have to focus on what we have in front of us.”

Matt Kawahara covers the A’s for The San Francisco Chronicle. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @matthewkawahara



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