Sean Manaea and company would have needed to be perfect to beat the Giants tonight. Manaea, in the four innings he pitched, was perfect, but some of the guys behind him weren’t, and in an evening in which the A’s couldn’t buy a hit after the fifth inning, it wouldn’t be enough, as the Giants win 3-0.
The first two Giants that Manaea would face threatened to get on the board early with hard and deep line drives to center and left field, but good positioning and fielding from Rajai Davis and Jaff Decker turned those deep drives into outs and kept the Giants off of the basepaths in the first. From then on, Manaea would go into cruise control and the Giants were only able to hit his offerings skyward, and in fair territory, once. By the time his final spring outing was done, Sean Manaea pitched four innings, not allowing a single baserunner, while striking out two batters. One of those strikeouts came right on the heels of a long fly ball just mere feet from landing fair, and giving the Giants a hit and a run, but all’s well that ends well as the ball landed harmlessly in the left-field corner seats by the foul pole.
While Manaea was making quick work of the Giants’ hitters, the A’s were doing a whole lot of threatening, but not a whole lot of scoring, against Giants’ starter Johnny Cueto. In each of the first four innings, an Athletic would reach base via a single, but in each inning the runner would fail to advance beyond first base. The typically effectively-wild Cueto was able to take advantage of some over-aggression on the A’s side of the ball, inducing weak contact on pitches falling out of the zone for easy outs. While he was giving up sporadic singles, Cueto was every bit as in control on the mound as Manaea was for the A’s, and it was clear that the game would likely come down to the guys coming in relief for the dominant starters.
After a quick four innings in which neither pitcher gave up any ground, it finally looked as though the A’s were going to break through in the top of the fifth. Yonder Alonso lead off the inning with a sharp single to the opposite field in left. At first, it looked as though the A’s would fail to advance yet another baserunner into scoring position or beyond, as the next two batters made meek outs that forced Alonso to stay put, but Davis would put a swing on an 0-1 pitch that looked not entirely dissimilar to the swing that nearly won the Indians the world series this last fall. Davis’ hit would bounce hard off of the left field wall, advancing Alonso up to third base on the double, putting runners in scoring position for the first time on the day for the A’s. The would-be rally was cut short, however, as Cueto would work out of trouble by getting Matt Joyce to hit a weak chopper back to the mound for a feeble third out.
The A’s perfect game bid would end in the fifth with John Axford on the mound, but a double into the right field corner would be for naught as the hard-throwing righty kept the Giants from pushing the runner across the plate. Daniel Coulombe would replace Axford in the sixth, having an easy-breezy inning with a strikeout, before heading back out again in the seventh to face one final lefty. Coulombe would fail in his seventh inning duty, however, and allowed Belt to reach base on a single before getting replaced on the mound by Liam Hendriks. Hendriks looked rather awful down the stretch in spring training, and tonight he continued to struggle. A quick strikeout was followed by four straight singles that plated three Giants, like death from thousands of papercuts, and Hendriks himself had to be relieved by Frankie Montas before the second out of the inning had even been recorded.
Montas would close out the game for the A’s, and despite giving up a couple of singles in his second inning of work, he continued to show off his swing and miss stuff and make his case as a necessary cog in the team’s bullpen from day one of the 2017 season. The Giants would not be able to cause any further damage for the remainder of the game.
It turns out Rajai Davis’ double would be the final hit the A’s would get all game. While the team would threaten to score in the sixth, when Ryon Healy reached on a throwing error by Brandon Crawford after hitting a knuckling ground ball to shortstop, once again the offense couldn’t get a key hit and Healy would be stranded at third base. Healy would wind up being the A’s final baserunner, as the A’s quietly and quickly went down in order over the final three innings to put the first of the last spring training exhibition games to rest.
The A’s will try their luck again tomorrow against the Giants at 7:15.