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Game #131: Manaea Strains Back, A’s Strain Patience

The A’s offense blew opportunity after opportunity while Sean Manaea left the game in the 4th with a back strain. Oakland drops the first game of the series to the Astros, 6-0.

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The big story in an otherwise pretty listless game is that Oakland’s pitcher, Sean Manaea, left the game in the 4th inning. There was worry abound in the game thread that it was some kind of arm or shoulder injury, but fortunately it appears to be something more benign:

We’ll keep our fingers crossed that it is indeed just a sore back and that Manaea isn’t up against anything more serious, especially given the season the A’s are having.

Part of the cause of the soreness may have been the disastrous 2nd inning. After two quick outs, Healy allowed THREE consecutive baserunners that should have been outs. He made a weak throw that Yulieski Gurriel beat out for an infield single, then made two consecutive errors (flubbed grounders) to load the bases. Honestly, with how weak the throw was on Gurriel, it easily could have been ruled an error as well. Manaea started to unravel, walking Jake Marisnick and George Springer to put the Astros up 2-0. It’s hard to blame him when a quick 3-up, 3-down inning is turned into an excruciating grind through no fault of his own. Manaea finally escaped by striking out rookie Alex Bregman for the fourth fifth sixth third out of the inning. The errors made him throw an extra 21 pitches.

One of our posters here on AN, King Richard, has some kind of disturbing superpower. During the 3rd inning he noticed that Manaea’s velocity was down, and after the first out of the 4th he was saying there was cause for concern (we saw an 87mph fastball) and that Manaea should be removed immediately. Sure enough, a couple pitches later the A’s trainer came out and Manaea left the game after 3 1/3 innings and 61 pitches.

Chris Smith came in the game to relieve Manaea and immediately got two strikeouts to end the inning.He ended up striking out two more batters in a 1-2-3 bottom of the 5th before giving up a solo home run to Jose Altuve in the 6th and loading the bases with 0 outs in the 7th. Wendelken came out of the bullpen and gave up a single to Bregman to bring a couple runs home, 5-0 Astros. Fortunately, Bregman showed his inexperience on the next batter. Jose Altuve threatened again with a screaming line drive right to Muncy, and Bregman had already started toward second and wasn’t able to get back to first in time to avoid the double play. That didn’t stop the Astros from scoring one more time in the inning, though, with Carlos Correa singling to bring George Springer home from third and make it 6-0. Smolinski made a nice running catch on Tal’s Hill (pour one out) for the final out to narrowly avert further damage.

The A’s offense was not good tonight, though there were also several hard-hit balls that would have produced runs in pretty much any other stadium.

The first hit for the A’s was a 2-out bloop single by Khris Davis in the top of the 4th. Valencia, who had previously walked, went to second. Healy hit a ball deep to center field, to the base of Tal’s Hill, but it wasn’t quite far enough to avoid the glove of Marisnick.

In the 5th, Semien doubled to center field, a blast that would have been a solo home run probably anywhere else. Smolinski got hit by a pitch for the second time tonight and Muncy managed a walk to load the bases. Coco struck out, a victim of good pitch sequencing, and Valencia struck out as well in a truly awful at-bat capped off by a swing at a slider a foot out of the zone.

The top of the 6th saw a Vogt single and a Khris Davis walk - something we’ve blessedly been seeing more of recently - but nothing to bring them home. Healy fell victim to a perfectly positioned left fielder on what should have been a double, and Alonso weakly GIDP’d. Not much else of consequence happened offensively.

Graveman is pitching tomorrow, so at least we have that to look forward to!