Blackley's change-up key to 'missing barrels'

July 18, 2012, 3:27 pm
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OAKLAND -- Entering the season, Travis Blackley didn't have an MLB win since July 1, 2004. Wednesday, his sights are set on victories in back-to-back starts against the two-time defending American League champions as a starter for the staff with the A.L.'s lowest ERA.

In order to do so, the Australian will have to overcome an irregular schedule and a sore back.

Because of the back, he was scratched from last Saturday's start against the Mariners and instead, was called on for three strong innings of relief before the All-Star Game. Melvin is a bit more concerned about the post-break adjustment than his starter.

"I think everyone has to go through it," Melvin said. "There's some trepidation regardless of who it is."

After pitching for both Bay Area teams as long relief and as a starter this year, the lefty is used to making it work.

"I've been pushed around in all kinds of different roles this year," Blackley said. "I'm not worried."

Neither is he worried about facing the daunting Rangers lineup, as he has twice already this season.

"Tomorrow is our third time facing Blackley," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "We know we're in for a fight."

The Rangers, and their struggling offensive leader Josh Hamilton, remember full well what Blackley did to them.

"When we faced him here, he was throwing more of a slider," Hamilton recalled. "We hit him pretty good. When he came to our place he was using change-up and fastball and he pretty much shut us down."

Hamilton nailed it. Blackley's most recent MLB win came on July 1 when he beat these very Rangers with seven innings of one-run ball and 18 change-ups in 93 pitches.

In Blackley's first start against the Rangers, when he allowed five runs and didn't get out of the fifth inning on June 5, he threw just six change-ups, again in 93 pitches.

Blackley was either unaware of or unwilling to acknowledge the importance of his change-up.

"It was all trying to locate and miss barrels," Blackley said of the win. "I don't think there's much to change, just throw my game. If I can locate and do what I've been doing most of the year, it shouldn't be too bad. You've got to be confident, yeah?"

Confidence will be key for Blackley, establishing command all of his pitches -- especially the change-up -- against a Rangers lineup that punishes mistakes, as evidenced by loud home runs from Hamilton and Adrian Beltre in Tuesday's loss.

"We'll see what he's going to do," Hamilton said of Blackley's pitch selection, "See if they're all working."

The A's, even after the Game 1 loss, are 12 game out of the second American League Wild Card berth, with five big home games against top teams to improve. It starts with Travis Blackley.
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"Don't sleep on us," Blackley said. "I feel good about the team. I reckon we're going to be in the hunt at the end."

Just like Karl Childers from Sling Blade, you don't question a man who reckons, especially one with an MVP-respected change-up.