Paul Blackburn's hard work paying off, shines in Athletics' win vs. Red Sox

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Blackburn's hard work paying off, shines again in A's win originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

The Athletics scraped out a much-needed win on Thursday thanks to another strong outing from Paul Blackburn, who quietly has become one of the most dominant pitchers in the American League.

Blackburn surrendered just one earned run in Oakland’s 4-3 victory over the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park, dropping his ERA to 2.26 -- good enough for seventh best in the AL among the likes of top aces such as Justin Verlander and Nestor Cortes.

Thursday was Blackburn’s sixth win of the season in what has been a fantastic start to the year for the right-hander and Bay Area native, who finished 2021 with just one win in nine starts.

“I was moving the ball around, I felt like I was able to create soft contact early and get out of jams when I needed to get out of jams,” Blackburn said of his outing after the game. “I feel like [Christian] Bethancourt and I were on the same page the whole game. We never went away from our game plan even though we got beat a couple of times.”

Back at catcher for the series finale, Bethancourt also did his part to help the A’s avoid a season-series sweep against the Red Sox with a two-run single in the third inning. Blackburn left the game in the bottom of the sixth after tossing 5 1/3 innings with eight hits, four strikeouts and two walks.

Blackburn has never finished a season with an ERA under three, but it looks like this could be his season to do it. A’s manager Mark Kotsay described him as the team’s “workhorse,” taking on a potent Red Sox lineup and working out of several tough innings.

“He had traffic but was able to get big outs, and that shows the maturity on Paul’s side,” Kotsay told reporters after the game. “He’s able to manage lineups and get big outs.”

Kotsay went on to say Blackburn has asserted himself as a top-of-the-line starter in the AL this season, and whispers of an All-Star nod come now after several seasons of hard work.

“We talk a lot about his journey to get here, and over the last two or three seasons with this club, hasn’t had that immediate success,” Kotsay said. “Didn’t shy away from continuing to work, continuing to believe. Did a lot of work in the offseason with, I think, more of his mindset, and you can see that.

“The confidence is there. The conviction is behind the baseball now.”

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The Red Sox nearly came back in the game’s last two innings after some timely hits and a costly, two-out throwing error by rookie infielder Jonah Bride. But in the end, the A’s came out on top and will fly home with some hope, and one more notch in the win column.

With Bethancourt officially finding his swing and Blackburn's continued dominance on the mound, the A’s could be in for a season turnaround before long. Until then, they’ll continue to fight.

“Earlier in the day, I got a question about this team’s fight,” Kotsay said. “And if they didn’t show up and fight today, I don’t know what they did.”