Sometimes a struggling team just needs one good starting pitcher to right the ship, and tonight, Sean Manaea did just that. Prior to tonight, the last time Manaea pitched was on Friday evening when he beat the Yankees behind 7 strong innings and 8 strikeouts. It was also the last time the A's had won a game. Tonight, Manaea gave the A's 7 more strong innings as he struck out 9 en route to his third straight victory.
***Click here to revisit today's Game Thread***
I originally wrote that tonight's key to the game was the A's lineup and how they would fare against Cleveland starting pitcher Mike Clevinger, but the fact of the matter was, the A's only received two huge contributions by Chad Pinder, and although he hit two home runs in first two at-bats to give the A's a 1-0 lead and then a 3-1 lead, that's all they'd need.
Manaea fell just one batter shy of tying his career-high for strikeouts (10), but he was economical tonight: Sean retired the side in the first inning on 5 pitches, and had retired the first 10 batters of the game on just 35 pitches. He'd lose his [admittedly premature] bid for a perfect game in the 4th inning when Francisco Lindor hit his 12th home run of the season, but probably could have pitched an 8th inning if necessary.
Behind the arms of Ryan Madson and Santiago Casilla, the bullpen picked up Manaea and tossed near-perfect eighth and ninth innings--well, aside from the odd spectacle of a misplay in left field by Khris Davis, who allowed the potential game-tying run to bat in the 9th with 2 outs. On the bright side, Khris also had his very first assist of the season when he doubled Jose Ramirez off first base on a line-out by Austin Jackson in the 5th inning.
In limiting the Indians to 3 hits, Manaea extends his streak of consecutive games in which he has allowed five or fewer hits while pitching two or more innings to 15, which is apparently a thing, and a thing that hasn't happened in the American League since 1913. Baseball Reference's Play Index is fun!
Despite the win, there are still plenty of questions left unanswered, especially as the lineup is concerned. I don't see much logic in leading-off with Matt Joyce when Chad Pinder hit 9th tonight and provided the only spark the A's needed. Despite Joyce's lead-off double to begin the ballgame, he has a life-time .298 on-base percentage when hitting first in the order. He went 0-for-3 the rest of the way.
All and all, though, A's fans were able to forget, even for one game, that their team is last in the AL West or that they had lost four consecutive games for the third time this season. They looked in control all night in every facet and if Sean Manaea continues developing, I think we can expect this same type of feeling again.