For the second time in as many days, the A’s lose a winnable game late. With the team up 4-0 entering the 8th inning, Jake Diekman and Lou Trivino loaded the bases on two walks and a single. A sacrifice fly advanced all three runners forward one base and pushed the score to 4-1. Liam Hendriks was brought in for yet another five-out save, and while he escaped the 8th with the lead, he did allow a two run single to make the score 4-3. Then he allowed back-to-back home runs to Brett Gardner and pinch hitter Mike Ford to lead off the 9th to end things.
It was not an ideal end to a series, especially after the team had been playing so well. But, despite the team ultimately losing today in frustrating fashion, all in all, there was a lot that happened in this game to feel positive about moving forward.
The big story in today’s game was, of course, Sean Manaea’s return. And, by and large, Manaea looked really strong on the mound. In the first inning he hit 94 MPH with his fastball, and he was consistently in the low 90s with his fastball through the first four innings. During those first four innings, only one batter reached base, on an infield single, and that baserunner was almost immediately erased via a double play later in the inning. If anything, Manaea looked better than he did at almost any point last season, or at any point during his tenure with the A’s.
Then, in the fifth, either Manaea began to tire, or he lost control of his arm slot or release point, because out of nowhere Manaea walked the bases loaded. His fastball lost some life as well, as it mostly hung around in the high 80s during the frame. Manaea escaped trouble that inning without any damage thanks in large part to Matt Olson, who made a sprawling stop on a hard hit ground ball to prevent two runs from scoring.
Speaking of Olson, in addition to his strong defense, which is a daily exercise from him, the first baseman had a good day at the plate, too. In the later innings, with the A’s in need of an insurance run and offense coming at a premium, Olson delivered a towering home run to right field.
Another hero on offense today was Sheldon Neuse, who entered today’s game still looking for his first major league hit. Neuse hasn’t looked overmatched at the big league level, for the most part, but many of his hard hit balls were right at people. When the A’s needed it most, with the score knotted at zero in the seventh inning and the bases loaded, Neuse deposited a double just fair into the right field corner.
It should be mentioned that Khris Davis also had a great day at the plate, reaching base three times, including a single and a double.
The A’s should have won, like they should have won yesterday, but the A’s played really good baseball up until the final thirty minutes of the game today. The team is tied for a playoff spot, with a pretty soft schedule in September to afford the team some more rest as well as some less stressful baseball. Next time they play in New York, things will surely go differently.