Paul Blackburn's personal itinerary for the next week seemed locked in: Make his scheduled start for the Aviators in Albuquerque on Friday night, fly to El Paso, Texas, for Wednesday's Triple-A All-Star game, then rejoin his teammates in Las Vegas on Thursday.
Well, the Oakland A's - the Aviators' parent club - put that itinerary in the shredder Friday when they instructed Blackburn to pack his things, head to Seattle and join the A's for their weekend series against the Mariners. It's the second time this season Oakland has promoted the veteran right-handed pitcher, who has made 17 starts for the A's over parts of the last three seasons.
One of those starts was June 8 in Texas, when Blackburn was recalled in an emergency to start the first game of a doubleheader that followed a rainout the previous night. Blackburn lasted only three innings, giving up five runs on five hits and three weeks in a 10-5 loss, after which the A's optioned him back to Las Vegas.
It's unclear when Blackburn, who last pitched Sunday in Las Vegas, will take the mound for Oakland, as right-handers Chris Bassitt and Daniel Mengden are slated to start against the Mariners on Saturday and Sunday before the All-Star break.
Along with Mengden, who was 4-2 with a 3.47 ERA in nine games (seven starts) with Las Vegas, Blackburn has been the Aviators' most consistent starting pitcher this season, going 7-1 with a 5.26 ERA. The 25-year-old leads the team in victories and winning percentage, and ranks second in innings pitched (78 2/3) and strikeouts (60). In his most recent start against the Reno Aces on Sunday, he allowed just two runs on five hits and one walk while striking out five over six innings.
Including his start in Texas last month, the California native is 5-5 with a 4.84 ERA in his 17 big-league starts.
To make room for Blackburn on the roster, the A's optioned fellow right-handed pitcher Tanner Anderson back to Las Vegas. Anderson actually replaced Blackburn in Oakland back in June and made five starts, going 0-3 with a 6.04 ERA while recording 18 strikeouts in 22 1/3 innings. For Las Vegas this season, the 26-year-old Anderson is 4-4 with a 6.26 ERA in 11 games (10 starts).
AVIATORS ROUT ISOTOPES: After dropping the opener of their four-game series in Albuquerque 8-2 on Thursday, the Aviators bounced back in a big way Friday, cruising to a 16-3 victory. Las Vegas (50-38) has now won five of its last six games and nine of its last 12 to pull within 3 ½ games of first-place El Paso in the PCL's Pacific Southern division.
Las Vegas scored the game's first 11 runs Friday, and everyone in the lineup had at least one hit, with seven players recording multiple hits. Once again, infielder Corban Joseph led the charge, going 4-for-5 with a double, two runs and two RBI. With that performance, Joseph boosted his PCL-leading batting average to .402 and extended his hitting streak to 18 games, which dates back to June 13.
Three other Aviators chipped in three hits apiece Friday, including Jorge Mateo (3-for-6, run, RBI), Nick Martini (3-for-6, two runs, two RBI) and Eric Campbell (3-for-5, two runs, two RBI), while Martini, Beau Taylor and Sheldon Neuse hit home runs.
James Naile was promoted from Double-A Midland, Texas, to start in place of Blackburn, and the right-hander was outstanding in his Triple-A debut, allowing just two runs and five hits in seven innings. Naile issued no walks, notched two strikeouts and was extremely efficient, throwing 62 of his 93 pitches for strikes.
JOSEPH KEEPS RAKING: During his 18-game hitting streak, which is the Aviators' longest this season, Joseph is batting an eye-popping .536 (37-for-69) with nine doubles, two triples, two home runs, 22 runs, 20 RBI and 12 multi-hit games. Going back to June 1, the left-handed-hitting 30-year-old has hit safely in 24 of the 25 games in which he's played, going 47-for-92 (.511). During this stretch, Joseph has twice as many multi-hit games (14) as he does strikeouts (seven).
Of course, Joseph isn't the only Aviator swinging a hot bat right now. Outfielder Mark Payton went 1-for-5 Friday to extend his hitting streak to eight games, going 14-for-36 with four doubles, three triples, one home run, seven runs and six RBI.
Also, catcher Jonah Heim, who didn't play Friday, is riding a nine-game hitting streak, during which he's 14-for-30 with two homers, three doubles, seven runs and seven RBI. Since being promoted from Double-A Midland on June 9, the switch-hitting Heim is hitting .446 with six doubles, four home runs and 15 RBI, while hitting safely in 16 of 18 games.
ON DECK: The Aviators continue their series in Albuquerque tonight, with Parker Dunshee (2-4, 5.86) scheduled to take the mound against fellow right-hander Rico Garcia (0-1, 7.90). First pitch is slated for 5:35 p.m. PDT. Following the series finale Sunday, the Aviators will take three days off for the All-Star break, returning to Las Vegas Ballpark on Thursday to begin a brief four-game homestand against the Salt Lake Bees.
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This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.