OAKLAND -- Daniel Mengden's first five outings of the season did not go well.
While the A's right-hander posted a respectable 1-1 record, he allowed 13 earned runs in just 23 innings for an ERA of 5.09. Mengden's biggest problem was his command -- the 26-year-old issued 15 walks in those five outings, translating to nearly six walks per nine frames.
Not surprisingly, Mengden was demoted to Triple-A. But he didn't hang his head. Instead, he used the opportunity to improve, particularly his control.
Since returning to the A's late last month, Mengden has won all four of his starts, most recently a 9-2 victory over the Mariners on Tuesday night at the Coliseum. He tossed seven strong innings, allowing just one run on four hits.
Most importantly, Mengden has only walked one batter in 24 innings since getting called back up from Triple-A.
"It's amazing," he said. "I'm not a big punchout guy. I'm not going to blow anybody away all the time, so it's all about staying aggressive and being ahead because when I'm ahead, I'm always in the driver's seat."
A's manager Bob Melvin echoed that sentiment, explaining that Mengden's improved command has completely changed the way he can attack hitters.
"Putting guys on base usually means you're getting behind them," Melvin said. "Now, all of a sudden, you have guys on base and you're trying to pitch around traffic. So I think that's been the key since he's been back."
With Tuesday's win, Mengden improved to 5-1 on the season with a 4.21 ERA, down nearly a full run from a month ago. In addition to commanding his pitches better, he has effectively mixed speeds and locations to keep hitters off balance.
"It's just staying aggressive," Mengden explained. "Getting strike one, and trying to keep them off balance."
Added Melvin: "It's mixing pitches that's important to him and getting ahead. Then he gets way less predictable. When he's behind and now he has to come in with a fastball, he's a little easier to handle. So it all starts with strike one, it all starts with not putting guys on base."
Mengden accomplished that goal Tuesday night, throwing first-pitch strikes to 19 of the 25 batters he faced. In total, he threw 65 strikes, compared to just 31 balls.
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"That's huge for us," said A's third baseman Matt Chapman, who homered and drove in five runs. "Playing defense behind a guy who throws a lot of strikes and works quick, that's all you can ask for. ... (Mengden) is capable of doing really good things on the mound. I've seen it in the minor leagues and seen it at this level too. So to see him get into that groove is really good."
The A's hope Mengden stays in that groove for the rest of the season. As long as he continues to pitch ahead in the count, he should be in great shape.