And for once, there truly was no further drama. The A’s took a 2-0 lead in the first inning and cruised from there, getting timely rallies and generally knocking around Yordano Ventura and the Royals bullpen. Sean Manaea was very good for the 5 innings he pitched. This was just a well-played game for win #3 of the series.
It’s actually kind of hard to come up with clever or insightful things to say in the recap for this game. It wasn’t the utter thumping/moment of awakening for the future’s potential that Monday’s game was, and it wasn’t a nail-biter like last night. It was just a game where the A’s did everything right.
Sean Manaea was once again extremely sharp, going 5 innings on only 67 pitches. He threw over 75% of his pitches for strikes. He was quick and efficient and kept the Royals batters off balance with mixed pitch speeds, as he has been doing more and more as he has grown into a major league pitcher. Although he was done after only 5 innings (to ease back into things after his back injury and a couple weeks off - gotta protect the goods), he managed to strike out 5 in a lineup that does a very good job of not striking out.
I think it’s also worth noting that Manaea was frequently hitting 95-96 on his fastball for the first couple of innings. After being promised “mid-90s” by all the minor league scouting reports, it was a bit disquieting to see Manaea come up to the majors and sit 93-94. If he can maintain 95-96 with some consistency he will become an even more effective pitcher and his changeup will become just that much better.
The A’s bullpen was also extremely cromulent. John Axford and Liam Hendriks pitched the 6th and 7th to great effect. Hendriks, in particular, was lethal, with 2 strikeouts in a very quick inning. I’m still haunted by memories of the first month or two of this season when it seemed he was physically incapable of inducing anything but singles, but Hendriks has been a true weapon in the second half. “Blowout closer” Chris Smith came out for the 8th and 9th and got a couple strikeouts and a quick inning of his own.
As for the offense, it scored a whole bunch of runs and honestly could have done even more. The game was won by a score of 8-0 but the A’s had multiple opportunities to ratchet it up to double digits. Not that I’m complaining.
The first couple runs came before Manaea even took the mound. Joey Wendle continues to look like a prototypical leadoff hitter, hitting a jam shot to left field for a single to start the game (he would walk in his next at-bat, which we really need more of from the 1-slot). Danny Valencia walked, and after a fielders choice for an out at the plate and another walk, the unstoppable Yonder Alonso looped a ball just over the third baseman’s head for the softest double imaginable to make it 2-0 Oakland.
The A’s put together a nice little two out rally in the 3rd to more than double their lead. Alonso came through yet again with a single up the middle, then Healy ended an excellent 9-pitch at-bat with a single to right field. Semien blasted a ball off the wall in right field (look at all those opposite field hits!) to drive in both runners, and then for good measure Bruce Maxwell singled to score Semien and make it 5-0.
The A’s continued to rack up baserunners throughout the game, but were kept off the scoreboard again until the 8th, when they had another 2-out rally. It went like this: Valencia bloop single, Stephen Vogt double that fell just fair in right field, Khris Davis single to drive them both home. 7-0 Oakland. Then another Alonso walk and another Healy opposite field single to make it 8-0. The A’s would actually load the bases before ending the inning, so it could have been even worse for the Royals.
Oh, and Khris Davis walked THREE times in one game! Who would have seen that coming in April, or even July for that matter?
Ryon Healy Is So Good Y’all
And I don’t just mean at baseball, though obviously he’s very good at that. He has the best approach at the plate of any A’s hitter, demonstrating patience, selectiveness, and the ability to drive balls away for opposite field hits.
But aside from that, I just love the guy’s whole vibe. In the 5th inning, just before Yordano Ventura got pulled, he nailed Healy in the ribs with a 96mph fastball. I’m pretty sure it was an accident, even considering who it was pitching - Ventura had struggled all night, and especially against the last couple batters he faced, he just had no control. Healy took his base, and as Ventura left the game, Healy voiced his disapproval with getting drilled, possibly intentionally in his eyes. Nobody wants their team’s players to be needlessly aggressive, and I’d really like to avoid any more beef with the Royals, but it’s a level of passion that has been mostly absent this year.
His post-game interview was excellent as well. He was well-spoken and confident, he talked at length about the preparation he does both during the season and the off-season, and generally just came across as a likable guy who really wants to be here and make the most of his opportunity. For a player who barely registered on pre-season prospect lists and who still gets very little attention outside of Oakland, Healy is shaping up to be a foundational player for the A’s.
So all in all, just a fantastic game by the A’s. The series win is locked up and they play the Royals for one last game tomorrow, both for the sweep and for the coup de grace on the Royals’ pride and postseason hopes. Game time will be, surprise surprise, 4:15 PT.