SAN FRANCISCO — The month Daniel Mengden circled on his calendar was September.
He hoped to make it to Triple-A by mid-season and be wearing a big league uniform by the time rosters expanded Sept. 1.
So much for that plan.
Mengden blew his own ambitious idea out of the water with an accelerated path to the bigs. You could say the rookie’s dominant performance in the A’s 8-3 win over the Giants on Monday was an eye-opener, if only he hadn’t shown similar form in his first three starts.
The only thing missing was a victory, and the right-hander notched career win No. 1 by tossing 7 2/3 innings of four-hit ball at AT&T Park to slow down the majors’ hottest team over the past month-and-a-half.
“From the day he got here, he looked like he belonged, and he looked like he had presence out on the mound and is in charge,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “Boy, it’s been really impressive.”
He’s also added an adrenaline shot for a team that will need to find consistent motivation to take it through the season’s finish line. Since divisional play began in 1969, this is just the third time in Oakland history the A’s have trailed by 16 1/2 or more games before the end of June. The way to keep the fire lit under this bunch is for young players like Mengden to come up from the minors and bring the energy.
“Anytime the youngsters come up, they add a little extra to your overall enthusiasm,” Melvin said. “You’re losing games, you're down. It’s tough to find that enthusiasm, especially for veteran guys. So anytime we can add a guy like that that performs in that fashion, it adds a little more enthusiasm to what we do out there.”
Calm and collected before a sellout crowd of 41,442, Mengden retired his first 13 hitters before allowing Angel Pagan’s single in the fifth. He changed speeds, moved the ball around the strike zone and kept missing the barrel of Giants’ bats.
He even added some flair, throwing his glove up and snaring Gregor Blanco’s liner that came rocketing back toward the mound in the second.
“That caught me, I didn’t catch that,” Mengden cracked.
The result of that play may have been part luck. But his reaction was symbolic of his presence on the mound. He appears in control of the situation, not at all overwhelmed by the big league moment.
“I’m impressed,” shortstop Marcus Semien said. “I didn’t realize how short of a time he’s had in pro ball. He’s come up here and shown that he belongs.”
A fourth-round draft pick out of Texas A&M in 2014, Mengden was traded from the Houston Astros to the A’s last July in the Scott Kazmir deal. He entered this season never having pitched above Single-A. He was not invited to major league camp, as were other more highly touted prospects like Sean Manaea and Dillon Overton.
Starting out with Double-A Midland, Mengden set a goal for himself.
“I was trying to make it to Triple-A by (the halfway point) of the year, and make September call-ups,” Mengden said. “That would be a good year for me. (But) some injuries, and how well I threw, I progressed quicker than expected. And i’m here now.”
The A’s couldn’t be happier about that. They’ve won five of their past seven, and look forward to welcoming Manaea back to the rotation Wednesday. He’s missed two starts with a forearm strain. Rich Hill should be back by this weekend’s series against Pittsburgh. Hill struck out six over three innings in a rehab start with Single-A Stockton on Monday as he works back from a strained groin.
Oakland currently is working with only four starters on the roster, but if Manaea and Hill both return healthy, someone will have to make way in the rotation. It’s hard to envision Mengden going anywhere given he’s allowed just eight earned runs over 25 2/3 innings, good for a 2.81 ERA.
“If you keep performing, you’ll find a place for yourself,” Melvin said. “He continues to perform.”