SEATTLE — Putting together one of their most complete all-around performances of the season, the A’s beat the Mariners 7-4 at Safeco Field on Thursday night and rewarded Bob Melvin with victory No. 500 as Oakland’s manager.
He becomes just the fourth manager in franchise history to reach the milestone, joining Hall of Famers Connie Mack (a mind-boggling 3,582 wins) and Tony La Russa (798) along with Art Howe (600).
Things hardly have gone according to plan for the A’s in this season plagued by injuries and spotty play in all facets. That’s the primary reason Melvin was downplaying talk of his 500th win before the game.
“It’d be one thing if you’re having a great year,” Melvin said. “It’s just a round number. There’s one coming up a little later that might be more (special).
The win Thursday leaves him just seven victories shy of 1,000 total as a major league manager. His first 156 of those came happened to come in two seasons managing the Mariners from 2003-04.
His players gave him one to savor for Thursday’s milestone, though the Mariners rallied for three runs in the ninth to make it closer.
Paul Blackburn, in his second career start, threw 7 2/3 innings of one-run ball to notch his first major league victory. He kept his pitch count low and corralled the Mariners without help from a single strikeout.
Khris Davis hit his 24th homer, a three-run shot in the fifth, and Bruce Maxwell added an opposite-field solo shot that same inning as the A’s pocketed their third victory in a row after a six-game losing streak.
Here’s five things you need to know as the A’s took the opener of a four-game series leading into the All-Star break:
Blackburn shines again: The rookie from Antioch rewarded the A’s for giving him a second start in the rotation. The right-hander scattered eight hits and got two early 4-6-3 double plays that nipped potential Seattle rallies in the bud. He also picked Jean Segura off first in the fourth inning. The 7 2/3 innings was the most by an A’s pitcher in one of his first two major league games since Brad Rigby threw eight innings on June 28, 1997.
Big night for top of the order: With Marcus Semien coming off the disabled list and returning to shortstop, Melvin re-worked the top of the order. Matt Joyce still led off, but Semien slipped into the No. 2 spot, followed by Yonder Alonso, Khris Davis and Jed Lowrie. Those first five hitters combined to go 6-for-21 with six RBI and scored six of the A’s seven runs.
Brugman shows off his arm: Blackburn got some help from his defense. In the third, center fielder Jaycob Brugman threw a strike to third to nail Mitch Haniger, who tried to tag up on Jarrod Dyson’s fly ball. The A’s entered the night tied for second in the AL in fewest outfield assists with 10.
Casilla needed in ninth: Daniel Coulombe couldn’t shut the door in the ninth, giving up Danny Valencia’s three-run homer. So Santiago Casilla had to come in to close it out.
Saturday’s starter: With Jharel Cotton going on the D.L., Melvin announced that 36-year-old Chris Smith will be called up from Triple-A Nashville to make his first career start Saturday.