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Game #16: Manaea Continues His Hot Start to 2018, A’s Win 2-1

MLB: Oakland Athletics at Seattle Mariners Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

By the seats of their pants, the A’s got a win in Seattle, by the score of 2-1. Sean Manaea continued his excellent start to the season and the A’s jumped on Felix Hernandez early to lead the team to victory.

**Click Here to Revisit the Game Thread**

The A’s got to all of their scoring straight away in the first, but not before some umpire-induced weirdness that ultimately helped the A’s but for still unclear reasons. With one out in the first, Marcus Semien hit a soft line drive to center field for a single. However, with Jed Lowrie at the plate, Semien got picked off of first base and took off for second, gesturing towards the umpire hoping for a balk call. At first, the balk was called, and Semien was awarded second, but after a lengthy umpire conference and discussions with both managers, Semien was told to return to first base. So, not a balk, but also not a successful pickoff. It was as if the previous play just didn’t happen, with no reasonable explanation as to why.

(OK, this is the best, reasonable explanation I could find)

All aside, the important thing is the A’s didn’t lose a baserunner, because after getting ahead 3-0 in the count Lowrie did this:

After the Lowrie home run and establishing a 2-0 lead, unfortunately, the offense went quiet, even with Felix Hernandez looking like a shell of his former self on the hill. The team went down in order in the second, struck in in order in the third, and went down on just five pitches in the fourth. The A’s started small rallies in three separate innings in the second half of the game, getting multiple runners on base and in scoring position in each frame, but in each case the team failed to get the crucial run-scoring hit that could have put the game out of reach. Fortunately, the A’s had Sean Manaea making the start on this afternoon.

The dueling narratives for Sean Manaea this season has been his extreme effectiveness on the mound in 2018 and his further-diminishing velocity. Both of those narratives continued to ring true this afternoon. The velocity was missing for Manaea right from the get-go as the lefty struggled to top just 90 MPH in his start, and was more reliant on threading the needle than ever before. Much the the contact he gave up was loud contact, even if it fortunately found an A’s glove before dropping. However, the lefty did a superb job of keeping runners off base, and apart from one rather awful pitch in the fifth inning, was in total control of every at-bat. This was perhaps Manaea’s strongest start of the year.

It took the Mariners four innings to record their first hit, and the only rally Seattle had was only started due to poor defense from Bruce Maxwell, letting two blockable pitches get by him to the backstop. Overall for his day, Sean Manaea pitched seven innings, allowing just two hits and two walks, with four strikeouts, and allowed just one run. That one run came on a fifth inning home run from Taylor Motter, who smacked a middle-middle fastball high and deep into the left field seats. Manaea’s diminished velocity is still very alarming, but there is no doubt that he has taken a large step forward in terms of his poise and control on the mound, as he is learning how to pitch with his less-than-overpowering fastball.

Manaea remains the bright spot in a rotation that has been predictably awful to start the year:

In relief of Manaea, Ryan Buchter and Blake Treinen kept the Mariners at bay and preserved the win for the A’s over the game’s final two innings, holding strong in a tense, tight affair. But the game needn’t have been as close as it was, as the A’s really bungled offensive opportunities late in the game. In each of the fifth, seventh, and eighth innings, the A’s were gifted a baserunner with a hit by pitch, and shortly followed that up with either singles or doubles that placed runners in scoring position. However, in each run-scoring situation, the batters’ at the plate had less-than-stellar approaches and squandered put-away opportunities (Matt Chapman, unsurprisingly, was the exception, who hit a 112 MPH line drive to left field that was caught in a bases-loaded situation in the eighth inning).

But there were many more positives than negatives, ultimately, as the A’s pulled out the victory. The team only gave up two hits, looked slick on defense, and did just enough on offense to pull out a victory against Felix Hernandez and the hot-hitting Mariners. This was among the A’s overall best played games on the young season, and the A’s salvaged part of what was a frustrating series in Seattle.

For now, the A’s get to return home to Rickey Henderson Field to do their laundry by facing the White Sox and Red Sox over the next week.