Oakland A’s starter Sean Manaea threw for seven innings gave up two hits and one run against the Houston Astros for the A’s fourth win in five games against the Astros on Thursday afternoon at the Oakland Coliseum (AP News photo)
Houston 1 2 0
Oakland 3 5 0
September 10, 2020
By Lewis Rubman
OAKLAND–No one who saw Sean Manaea pitch two years ago can doubt his bona fides as a top of the line. Just ask the Red Sox; he no hit them on April 21 of 2018. But by August 26 a sore shoulder in his pitching arm sent Manaea to the disabled and then to surgery, another stay on the DL, prolonged and closely monitored rehab, until, finally, on September 1, 2019, he returned to active duty as the rosters expanded all over MLB.
The Throwin’ Samoan was masterful in his first start and went 4-0, 3.55 in the 29-2/3 innings he pitched over the rest of the season. But his performances were progressively weaker as the pennant race ran down until he was driven from the box after having surrendered four runs in two innings against Tampa Bay in the wild card game.
This year, the concerns about his mound work center around his reduced velocity and the difficulty he has getting past the second time around his opponents’ batting order. He hadn’t thrown more than 5-1/3 innings before today, and his record stood at 3-2, 5.09, although manager Bob Melvin had been encouraged by the lefty’s last outing, in which he held San Diego to one run on four hits in five innings.
Today he showed that Melvin had reason to feel as he did. If Manaea’s work this afternoon at the Coliseum didn’t all but concern him to rest, they sure went a long way towards doing that. – Menaea and Houston’s José Urquidi traded zeroes—and I mean zeroes, no runs, no hits, no errors—for the first four innings. The only men to reach base were Marcus Semien and Matt Olson, whom he walked in that frame.
Josh Reddick broke Manaea’s string on perfect innings with a lead off double down the right field line that was just barely fair. He advanced to, but stopped at, third when Aledmys Díaz followed with a line drive single to center.
It was good, conservative base running not to try to score in a no out situation like that, but it also was a tribute to Ramón Laureano’s strong arm. Martín Maldonado then hit into a 4-6-3 double play, La Stella to Semien to Olson, to wipe out Díaz, and Manaea struck out George Springer to escape further damage.
That one run deficit looked pretty imposing as the A’s came to bat in the bottom of the sixth. The situation seemed more dire when Urquidy got La Stella out on a warning track drive to right (which gave rise to some hope that the right handed wizard might be weakening).
Urquity got the second out, a grounder to Correa, his Astro counterpart at short. But then Urquidy walked Laureano on four pitches, and this time Houston’s hurler paid a price for his lack of control.
Olson blasted the first pitch Urquidy sent his way, a 93 mph four seamer, 377 feet to right for his twelfth homer and 30th and 31st RBI of this truncated campaign.It put Oakland ahead 2-1. Not bad for a guy who entered the game with a batting average of .190.
Urquidy had pitched an excellent game. In his six innings of work, he had given up two runs on only two hits to go with his one strike out. Although he had thrown only 88 pitches and might have lasted another frame, he had given signs of tiring.
So Dusty Baker called on Andre Scrubb to relieve his starter at the beginning of the home half of the seventh. Scrubb had surrendered one hit in two-thirds of an inning against the A’s last night. This afternoon, the toll was one hit and one run over the same distance.
Mark Canha led off by walking and stole second with Vimael Machín at bat. Chad Pinder, subbing for the still injured Matt Chapman at third, drove the runner home with a single to center. Houston was paying dearly for the bases on balls its pitchers were allowing, and Oakland went into the eighth ahead, 3-1.
Manaea had gone seven full innings, the longest stint of the year, and they were excellent. LIke Urquidy he had allowed two hits but only one run. He struck out four and, what’s very important, didn’t allow a single free pass. Indeed, of his 61 pitches, only 20 were balls.
Jake Diekman continued his nearly immaculate relief work, shutting out the ‘stros without a hit in the eighth (although he did surrender a base on balls to Reddick). That made 16 innings pitched by the southpaw reliever, with nary a run scored against him.
The Athletics wasted a chance for an insurance run in the eighth when Brad Peacock, pitching in relief of Scrubb, picked Robbie Grossman off at first. Umpire Adrian Johnson had ruled him safe, but that call was overturned on video review. Canha’s subsequent double to left was, as a consequence, unproductive.
Liam Hendriks mowed down the Astro , 1-2-3, in the ninth, earning his 12th save in 13 opportunities.
The A’s widened their lead over the Astros to 6 1/2 games. They trail Tampa Bay by a half a game for the best record in the American League and are in third place, four games behind the Dodgers for the top seat in MLB.
Melvin’s minions will continue their relentless pursuit of the pennant by flying this evening to Dallas-Ft. Worth, where they’ll meet the Texas Ranger tomorrow evening. The weary road warriors will return to the Coliseum on Sep 18th for a three game weekend series against the Giants.