A's Top Prospect Jesús Luzardo Lives Up to Hype in Sparking MLB Debut

Bob Melvin certainly didn't do Jesús Luzardo any favors.

The A's manager brought in his 21-year-old left-hander for his major league debut and asked him to protect a three-run lead for three full innings, against arguably the best lineup in all of baseball. Luzardo passed the test with flying colors.

Oakland's top prospect retired nine of the 10 batters he faced, allowing just a solo home run, as the A's knocked off the first-place Houston Astros, 5-3.

"I was just anxious to get on the mound," Luzardo told reporters after the game. "A little nervous, but after the first pitch it kind of all went away and I just zoned in."

Luzardo recorded two strikeouts without issuing a walk, setting down the last seven Astros he faced. He seamlessly mixed his 97 mph fastball with a devastating slider and changeup, throwing 22 of his 36 pitches for strikes.

"It's really impressive," said starting pitcher Brett Anderson, who earned his career-high 12th win of the season. "The command, the poise, for how young he is, the overall stuff is phenomenal. Anytime you can have a lefty throw 98 that throws strikes, it's always a plus."  

Added Melvin: "It's three-plus pitches. He can pitch in any fashion that he wants. He can pitch with his fastball ahead. He can pitch behind in the count. He's always had the ability to do that."

Luzardo may have battled a few nerves early on, but the moment was clearly not too big for him. He attacked All-Star hitters with the confidence of a veteran.

"I grew up watching some of them," Luzardo said of the Astros. "I took the same approach that I would in any other game. I looked at the scouting reports down in the bullpen and kind of prepared myself for what was to come and I'm glad that the results turned out well."

Luzardo had the added pressure of performing in front of approximately 30 friends and family members. But he was thrilled they were able to share this night with him.

"It was crazy," Luzardo told NBC Sports California. "It was a great time here. I'm glad that I could get a lot of my family and friends out here. I'm happy they could make it out. It was everything I expected it to be."

The question now is how the A's choose to use Luzardo moving forward. While he is destined to be a top-flight starting pitcher throughout his career, Oakland already has six solid starters, along with a shaky bullpen. Wednesday night provided a glimpse of the type of late-inning weapon Luzardo could be down the stretch.

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"We'll still talk about it," Melvin said. "We still want to try to get his pitch count up. I mean, he is a starter by trade. All of our starters are pitching pretty well right now. Maybe the next time out, the same type of fashion. We'll get together at some point in time tomorrow and put a plan together for him."

However the A's choose to use Luzardo, he showed Wednesday night that he is the real deal.

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