A’s, Manaea roughed up in 7-4 loss to the Rangers

By Morris Phillips

The look on Sean Manaea’s face? Not good.

After allowing a second home run on Sunday afternoon to Texas’ DJ Peters–or better yet, assisting Peters–Manaea looked up at the Globe Life Field retractable roof, and without saying anything, and just looking at his eyes, appeared to be saying, “What am I doing?”

In the grandest circuit of professional baseball anywhere in the world, you won’t see two, more majestically struck baseballs. Peters deserves credit, but Manaea would admit, he was more than helpful.

It’s been one of those seasons for Manaea: sometimes spectacular, sometimes awful, the A’s top line starter can’t find a groove from start to start. Manaea allowed seven earned runs in Sunday’s 7-1 loss, the second time he allowed as many runs this season. He also allowed five earned runs in a loss at the Coliseum two weeks ago to the Padres.

But in 12 of his 25 starts this season, Manaea’s been splendid, allowing zero or one earned run. In one stretch of five starts spanning June and July, Manaea strung together five such starts, including his four-hit, complete game shutout at Seattle on June 2. None of the last three starts for Manaea have fallen into the splendid category. With the season on the line, he needs to get back to winning.

“Giving up home runs, so, yeah,” Manaea said when asked what needs to change. “I guess, throwing stuff down the middle, I guess that counts as better command.”

“It was just some long balls that got him today,” manager Bob Melvin said of Manaea. “This is a tough stretch for him. A lot of guys go through tough stretches. You’ve got to pitch your way out.”

Manaea was both good and bad within Sunday’s start. He walked just one batter, struck out five, but five extra-base hits–three homers and two doubles– each chased home at least one run. None were cheap, especially the two hit by Peters. The 460-foot home run he tagged in the first inning was one of the longest hit in the short history of the new Arlington ballpark, and could be seen picking up passengers in flight.

“I just want to be as prepared as possible and do my homework, from the elite bullpen arms to the starters every day — watching films and taking notes,” Peters said of his breakout performance which netted him two of his four career home runs. “Obviously, I’m still new but being as prepared as possible is definitely key. That’s what all of the championship teams do.

Manaea departed trailing 7-1 after five innings, and that put the A’s in an impossible spot, but they still rallied with Mark Canha’s homer in the sixth, and RBI hits from Tony Kemp and Sean Murphy in the seventh and eighth. But the ninth brought no magic: Starling Marte flew out to left with a pair of runners aboard to end the ballgame.

Matt Chapman stayed hot with a solo shot in the 2nd off winning pitcher Koby Allard. He had three hits on the afternoon, and he’s homered three times in the first six games of the road trip.

The A’s have 44 games remaining, and as they’ve grown accustomed to in recent seasons, there are plenty of moving parts around them. The Astros also lost, so the A’s squandered an opportunity to get within 1 1/2 games of the AL West lead. The trio of wild card contenders in the AL East–Boston, New York and Toronto–all won with Boston equaling Oakland’s mark at 68-50.

Frankie Montas gets the start Monday in Chicago for the first of four games with the White Sox. Familiar face Dallas Kuechel gets the start for Chicago, and at age 33, the veteran may be losing velocity and fooling hitters less frequently. Kuechel has allowed 21 home runs in 22 starts this season.

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