OAKLAND — Drake’s “Nice For What” blared through the clubhouse speakers as the Oakland A’s ate an unexpectedly early lunch on Saturday afternoon. It was the same song that blasted through the Coliseum as Daniel Mengden warmed up hours earlier, and again as the right-hander prepared for the ninth inning of his second career shutout.
A day after another young starter — Sean Manaea — prolonged his month-long slide by failing to escape the fourth inning, Mengden went the distance in just two hours and 15 minutes in a 3-0 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks.
“He’s been on quite a roll,” manager Bob Melvin said. “He’s gained a lot of confidence — probably starting with the last month of last year. But, boy, he’s been durable. He’s been real economical with his pitch count and I don’t think I’ve ever see him mix his pitches as well as he has.”
Over his last five starts, in the month of May, Mengden has a 1.07 ERA. In those starts, he’s given up just 21 hits, including the two he allowed on Saturday, as he struck out five and extended his scoreless innings streak to 16.
“I’m just trying to keep this going as long as possible,” Mengden said. “I’m just trying to throw strikes, trying to get ahead, trying to get weak contact and get outs.”
During his last five starts, Mengden has displayed superb command and control, issuing a grand total of four walks, including two on Saturday.
“One, it keeps guys off bases. Two, it keeps your pitch count down,” Melvin said. “And if you watch it too, it’s not just strikes. It’s quality strikes.”
Matt Joyce put the A’s ahead on the first pitch of the bottom of the first, bombing his seventh home run 412 feet, into the right-field bleachers.
On a largely quiet afternoon for both sides, Clay Buchholz proceeded to set down the next 15 A’s in order. Chad Pinder broke the spell, drilling a double off the wall in left center.
While Pinder’s two-base hit went to waste, Matt Olson doubled the advantage an in the seventh inning with a towering home run to left center — this one going 415 feet and exiting at 109 mph.
Pinder added a resounding home run of his own in the eighth, one which came out screaming at 108 mph off the bat and traveled 424 feet.
“Both of those balls were hit really hard,” Melvin said. “And we’ve seen, when Pinder swings the bat well, he’s a productive guy and you’re looking for ways to get him in the lineup.
The Pinder homer is what convinced Melvin to send Mengden out to work the ninth, even as closer Blake Treinen warmed in the bullpen.
“I was really excited,” Mengden said. “[Melvin] came up to me and told me, ‘Unless we score here, most likely you’re done. So, I was all about it.”
After spinning his shutout, Mengden, a Houston native, headed across the way to watch the Rockets face the Warriors in Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals at Oracle Arena. Before conducting his postgame interviews, Mengden made a point of draping his bright red James Harden jersey over the chair that rested in front of his locker.
Mendgen said he was ready to watch the Rockets close out the series. When a reporter noted that Chris Paul (right hamstring) is out, Mengden brushed aside the concern.
“Ehh, it’ll be alright.”