Sean Manaea has been the A's best pitcher over the past month or so.
Okay, okay, Kendall Graveman has been great too. But Sean Manaea has absolutely clicked since his return from the DL – huge strikeout numbers, absolutely no walks, and the stuff is matching the results beautifully. He's been a top-20 pitcher in the league, man. That's ridiculous.
Marcus Semien is the A's best position player in the post-Josh Reddick world.
I don't think this should be a debate. Dude is an average defensive shortstop on track for a ~35 HR season. If you're going to build around any piece, it's Marcus Semien. He's tremendous, young, and a seemingly awesome person. He'll be the face of the franchise in the next phase of the rebuild. This shouldn't be controversial.
Both players are responsible for the loss tonight. So it goes in baseball – it's such a finicky game, even the best players screw up constantly. Tonight the A's best players screwed up constantly, while the fringes did well enough to keep them in the running.
The game started off on such a good note, too. Manaea cruised through the first four innings, facing one over the minimum. Khris Davis hit his 27th homer of the year in the second inning, and Coco hit his 10th HR in the 5th to give the A's an early 2-0 lead. Khris Davis's excellence shouldn't be a surprise – the book on him was always "he'll hit dingers but won't give you much else" – but man, he's hitting enough dingers to cover up any other deficiencies in his game.Here's another franchise cornerstone for the nü-A's. It's great to see Coco doing great as well, even if that doesn't mean much for anything.
After that, it started to go sour. At the bottom of the 5th, Jett Bandy hit a two-run HR that ended Manaea's run of brilliance. I refuse to believe that a player named Jett Bandy exists, so I'm forced to assume that it was actually Mike Trout in disguise, so this is understandable.
Manaea fell apart at this point: he got out of the inning, but only after allowing a double and a walk – his first in his last 31 innings (!!!) – and was helped out of trouble by a fortunate lineout.
The sixth inning lost the game for the A's. After a Mike Trout walk, Albert Pujols hit a double-play ball to Semien, and Semien proceeded to boot it. The next hitter, Jefry Marte (seriously, the Angels have the strangest roster) hit a three-run HR to break the game open. It would've been a solo shot if Semien had handled the grounder, but there's blame to go around, and an error isn't an excuse to throw a garbage pitch.
Manaea was lifted after walking another hitter, and the bullpen (Liam Hendriks, John Axford, and Ryan Dull) handled itself exceedingly well. Meanwhile, Yonder Alonso hit a two-run shot down the right field line to bring the game within a run. Unfortunately, that's as far as the A's could take it.
What should you take away from these post-deadline, mostly meaningless games? Last year I went with relentless positivity. Focus on the good, the bad parts can be fixed, etc, etc. I'd recommend the same course of action this year. This team is still kinda exciting if you squint, and just because the building blocks had growing pains tonight doesn't mean that they won't be the foundation of the World Champion 2017 A's.
(also Jed Lowrie barely deserves a roster spot, let alone him being #2 in the lineup. Fix that, Bob.)