Solid pitching from Sean Manaea. Timely hitting from the A's offense. Along with dependable defense from the defenders increased Oakland's winning-streak to two games; and notched Manaea's first victory of his major league career; en route to a 3-1 win.
I've been on the Manaea hype train since the A's acquired the Indiana native last July for Ben Zobrist. His confidence and poise on the mound are just a couple factors I admire from the 24-year-old first-round pick; and he came to play on Monday, as he held the Texas Rangers to just four hits on the night and allowed one run over 6 2/3 innings with three punch outs.
Sean Manaea vs. Derek Holland
From the beginning the southpaw looked absolutely masterful on the hill, as he effectively mixed his arsenal and tossed in an extensive amount of change-ups to keep the opposition off-guard. After retiring Rougned Odor to lead-off the ballgame, Manaea made quick work of Elvis Andrus on four pitches -- two of which came on 86-87 MPH change-ups, surprisingly on 0-1 and 1-1 counts, before inducing Andrus to fly out. Shortly after, Nomar Mazara tapped a weak grounder to Marcus Semien on an economical-friendly eight pitches heading to the bottom half.
Derek Holland responded with a clean 1-2-3 inning of his own in the first; despite the fact that he owns an 0-1 record with a 27.00 ERA in May. This trend continued in the second and third before the hot-hitting Josh Reddick broke through with a bloop single to center field that should have been caught by Ian Desmond, but somehow subsequently deflected off the second baseman Odor -- and allowed Billy Burns to advance to second, following a hit-by-pitch to begin the bottom of the fourth.
Oakland's offense outlasts the opposition
With two on and one away, the scorching Danny Valencia stepped into the batter's box -- coming off an outstanding series against the Tampa Bay Rays in which he went 6-for-12 with five round-trippers and seven RBIs, and all but was the saving grace for the green and gold amongst a forgetful East Coast road trip. Most importantly, Valencia is the fourth A's player in franchise history to have a three-homer game since 2000; but I digress...
Even though the third baseman didn't come up with a clutch hit against the 6.09 ERA Holland, Valencia some how managed to work a nine-pitch walk, while fouling off a series of nasty sinkers and sliders before ultimately loading the bases for Khris Davis. To be honest, I didn't have much confidence in Davis to come through with runners in scoring position, but seconds later he proved me wrong -- as he launched a fairly-deep fly ball to right field, allowing Burns to score easily from third base; giving the A's an early 1-0 lead. But that wasn't all...
Billy Butler... YES BILLY BUTLER joined the A's offensive party with an RBI single to center field, on what appeared to be a hanging knuckle-curveball over the middle of the plate; and the burly right-hander capitalized when it mattered the most! I don't know what Butler's future entails with the Athletics, but he has a chance to make a name for himself whether it's with Oakland, or David Forst somehow finds a suitor for the aging veteran.
A's arms go the distance
Manaea kept the ball rolling with another outstanding inning in the fifth. After working a 3-2 count to Ryan Rua, the lefty did something unorthodox that caught me and Rua off-guard, by tossing an 85 MPH change-up in on the hands -- resulting in a weak-hit ground ball to the third baseman Valencia for the first out of the frame. After surrendering a walk to Drew Stubbs, Manaea managed to retire Bobby Wilson and Hanser Alberto on a couple of liners to end the frame.
Both lefties exchanged a pair of zeros in the sixth; but the game-changing play for me was the sensational diving catch by Burns with two away off the bat of Mazara who softly connected on a pitch to shallow center field. But my words mean nothing compared to what transpired on this play. Check it out for yourselves!
I was shocked to see Manaea make his way to the mound in the seventh. Not because I didn't have faith in his performance, but how he seemingly fairs against the opposition for the third time around. It didn't take long for Adrian Beltre and Desmond to connect with back-to-back singles to start off the inning. But I've got to give props to Manaea, for keeping his cool as Rua hit a sharp grounder to the lefty -- who responded by making a leaping circus grab and calmly threw out the right-hander at first. Before all was said and done, Stubbs jumped on a first-pitch fastball and scorched it to right field for nothing other than a productive sac-fly, to cut the A's lead in half.
That proved to be enough for A's skipper Bob Melvin who called on Sean Doolittle to face Wilson with runners on second and third with two outs and it didn't take long. Doolittle reared back with all of his might and blew four 95+ MPH heaters passed the slugging Wilson with ease to end the threat. In the bottom half, Marcus Semien gave the A's a much-needed insurance run by launching a moon shot to straight-away center field for his 10th home run of the season. The round-tripper from the A's shortstop felt like a breathe of fresh air, as John Axford had a clean 1-2-3 eighth -- as did closer Ryan Madson who retired Beltre, Desmond and Rua on 11 pitches for his 11th save of the season!
What a win for the green and gold! It is so nice to see Manaea absolutely deal against the Rangers, especially since they're leading the pack in the American League West thus far. Congratulations on the first of many major league victories Sean Manaea! Oakland has finally recorded their first win in 2016 on a Monday, and Jesse Hahn takes the bump against Cole Hamels tomorrow; so lets keep the ball rolling!