Paul Blackburn throws 7 shutout innings, Athletics walk it off in the 9th

The Oakland Athletics grabbed a walk-off victory against the Cleveland Guardians on Sunday afternoon

Mar 31, 2024; Oakland, California, USA; Oakland Athletics outfielder Lawrence Butler (4) hits a
Mar 31, 2024; Oakland, California, USA; Oakland Athletics outfielder Lawrence Butler (4) hits a / Robert Edwards-USA TODAY Sports

The Oakland Athletics notched their first victory of the season on Sunday afternoon, beating the Cleveland Guardians 4-3 on a walk-off walk drawn by Abraham Toro.

Athletics' righty Paul Blackburn was outstanding, throwing 7 shutout innings while allowing just 3 hits and a walk, and getting 3 strikeouts on the day.

It's the first strong outing by an Athletics' starting pitcher this season. Alex Wood, Ross Stripling, and JP Sears gave up a combined 16 runs the past three days, and neither Wood nor Sears was able to get out of the 4th inning.

In the past, quality hasn't been the problem for Blackburn. Over the past two seasons, he's pitched to a 4.35 ERA with a 4.09 FIP and a 2.64 K/BB rate. Those numbers are fine for a back-end starting pitcher.

The problem is that those numbers have come in just 215 innings. What's worse is that he threw just 138 innings in the 5 seasons prior combined. Blackburn has dealt with a bevy of injuries during his career but if he's able to put together a full season in 2024, it'll be a huge step forward, especially considering he'll be a free agent after 2025.

The A's offense looked sharp on Sunday as well. They got off on the right foot, scoring 2 runs in the bottom of the first and adding a 3rd just two innings later.

JJ Bleday went 2-4 with 2 RBI, including a triple on a fly ball launched into deep center field in the first. Esteury Ruiz had a multi-hit day as well and scored twice, driven in by Bleday on both occasions.

Shortstop Nick Allen was charged with his third error of the season, unfortunately. Three errors in four games is obviously not a good pace, but especially so for a guy fighting for his roster spot.

Thankfully for Allen, Darell Hernaiz hasn't put too much pressure on in the early going but Allen has been on the roster the past couple seasons due to his strong defense.

He's been making progress in the batters box. Allen hit well during spring training and has looked better in the past few games than he did at any point in 2022 or 2023. However, he's got some work to do if he wants to secure every day playing time all summer.

The Athletics are back at it again on Monday evening, getting ready to take on the Boston Red Sox in a three game set. Monday's game will be free to stream on, starting at 6:40 pm PST. They'll match up again Tuesday evening before playing a 12:30 pm getaway game on Wednesday afternoon.

Probable starters for Monday's affair will be Athletics' righty Joe Boyle and Red Sox' righty Tanner Houck.