Daniel Mengden never would come right out and say it, but he's clearly much more comfortable starting a game than following an opener.
After two subpar outings as a follower, the right-hander was spectacular Wednesday night in a start, leading the A's to a 2-0 win over the Cardinals in St. Louis.
"It was all about executing," Mengden told NBC Sports California. "Me and Beau [Taylor] had a great game plan going in. The cutter ended up being really good tonight. We utilized that a lot tonight against a lot of the righties and even backdoor to the lefties. But overall, just getting ahead, staying ahead, and going from there."
Mengden tossed six shutout innings, allowing just four hits and one walk with five strikeouts. He threw 64 of his 93 pitches for strikes, including first-pitch strikes to 17 of the 23 batters he faced.
More curl than the stache.#RootedInOakland pic.twitter.com/faCPDlzCPM— Oakland A's (@Athletics) June 27, 2019
"It was terrific," A's manager Bob Melvin told reporters. "We've been talking to him about this for a while. [When] he finds a rhythm in his timing, stick with it.
"He was quick to the plate every time there was somebody on base. He had the same delivery, the same times, and he was throwing the ball where he wanted to throw it. He was getting ahead, he was throwing strikes. ... Hopefully, he takes that into the next start because that was an impressive start, as we've seen him do in the past."
Mengden's last two outings with Oakland came in follower roles, and they did not go well. The 26-year-old allowed seven total earned runs on 10 hits and four walks in just 6 2/3 innings, both A's losses.
On Wednesday, Mengden didn't have to worry about an opener, and he looked like a completely different pitcher.
"Routine," he stressed. "It's just something us starters do every time we go out there. We have our routine. I'm very routine-oriented.
"It's just a great feeling ... having kind of a rhythm going into the game rather than having to time it and have to kind of wiggle your way into getting loose [after] an opener."
Mengden has shown this capability in the past, throwing complete-game shutouts in each of the last two seasons. For him, the issue always has been consistency.
"I thought he did a really good job with his pace," A's catcher Beau Taylor told reporters. "I kind of feel like sometimes he lulls a little bit. That was one of the biggest points we were trying to get before the game."
After multiple stints in Triple-A this year, Mengden knew he had to make a good impression Wednesday. With Frankie Montas serving an 80-game PED suspension, Mengden has a golden opportunity to earn a full-time spot in the A's rotation for the rest of the season.
"I've been called up and down so many times, so I knew the time was going to come eventually to come back," he said. "I was always ready and hungry for the opportunity."