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Apr 12, 2024 7:41 am

Nationals, A’s look to break through against strong pitching

paul blackburn

Pitching largely has been a plus this week for the Washington Nationals and Oakland Athletics. Whichever team can break through with the bats might be in better shape as they begin a three-game series Friday night in Oakland.

This will be the Athletics’ first home game since the announcement late last week that they will play home games from 2025-27 in Sacramento, Calif., in advance of an anticipated relocation to Las Vegas.

Oakland will be back home after winning four of its past five games, including Thursday afternoon’s 1-0 victory against the Texas Rangers in a result achieved despite posting only four hits. Four Athletics pitchers combined on a one-hitter.

JP Sears took a no-hitter into the seventh inning.

“I’m out there just trying to get guys out,” Sears said.

Over the past seven days, the A’s are 4-2 with a 2.60 ERA, shutting out their opponents twice. For Oakland manager Mark Kotsay, stellar pitching can carry the Athletics a long way.

“That’s the maturation we’re looking for from these type of young starters, and he showed that (on Thursday) for sure,” Kotsay said of the performance from Sears.

The Nationals had a three-game winning streak snapped with Wednesday’s 7-1 loss at San Francisco before having Thursday off.

Washington’s pitching staff is 3-3 with a 3.57 ERA over the past week.

Nationals manager Dave Martinez said he’s mostly satisfied with the team’s pitching, but there needs to be some fine-tuning.

“You’ve got to stay away from those big innings,” Martinez said. “The first two games we played (on the road trip) we didn’t allow that to happen. If we can continue to do that, we’ll win a lot more series. The first two games on the West Coast were good. There were some miscues (Wednesday), but we’re playing well.”

Oakland will be the second stop on a nine-game trip for Washington. The Athletics are 1-6 in home games.

Right-hander Jake Irvin (0-1, 5.73 ERA) will make his third start of the season for Washington. Last year as a rookie against the A’s he allowed two runs in 6 2/3 innings of a 3-2 win on Aug. 12. He wasn’t part of the decision.

For Oakland, right-hander Paul Blackburn (1-0, 0.00 ERA) will look to maintain his string of scoreless innings. He blanked the Cleveland Guardians over seven innings on March 31, then the Detroit Tigers for six innings last Saturday. Combined, he has allowed six hits and one walk and has struck out seven.

Blackburn has faced the Nationals only once, taking the loss while giving up four runs in 5 2/3 innings in an 8-2 loss last Aug. 11 in Washington, D.C.

On Tuesday, the Nationals sent right-hander Joan Adon to Triple-A Rochester, but their roster moves likely aren’t done.

“I think we’re going to end up needing another pitcher,” Martinez said. “We got a day to figure things out.”

In terms of the starting pitching, Martinez said he doesn’t want to shuffle pitchers around even with the off day on Thursday, so the order of the rotation likely will stay the same for now.

Oakland’s Seth Brown had two of the team’s four hits, including a home run, in Thursday’s game, an encouraging sign after he was hitting 5-for-36 (.139) entering the game.

By game’s end, the Athletics had just one player who played in the game who will enter the Washington series with a batting average above .250. That’s outfielder JJ Bleday, who checks in at .255.

–Field Level Media

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