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Game #58: Sean Manaea tosses 4-hit shutout against Mariners

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Oakland’s second shutout in the past week

Oakland Athletics v Seattle Mariners
Manaealator
Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images

The Oakland A’s waited two full years for one of their starters throw a nine-inning shutout, from May 2019 until May 2021. They only had to wait six more days to see it happen again.

A’s starter Sean Manaea tossed a four-hit shutout against the Seattle Mariners on Wednesday, and his lineup gave him plenty of support in a 6-0 victory at T-Mobile Park. It’s technically Manaea’s second shutout of the year, after he completed a seven-inning doubleheader contest in April, but this time he went the full nine.

*** Click here to revisit tonight’s Game Thread! ***

Before this year, the last time the A’s rotation threw a full traditional shutout was the no-hitter by Mike Fiers in May of 2019. Since then they got seven-inning efforts in doubleheaders from Mike Minor in Sept 2020, and Manaea this April, but it wasn’t until Chris Bassitt last Thursday that an Oakland starter recorded 27 outs without a run crossing the plate. Now they’ve done it twice within a week.

For Manaea personally, this is the third shutout of his MLB career. In addition to the two this summer, he also spun his own no-hitter in 2018.

The left-hander breezed through this latest gem. He didn’t allow a baserunner until a walk in the 3rd inning, and the first hit came in the 4th and then was immediately eliminated in a double play. The only real threat came in the 5th when Seattle loaded the bases with two out, but a routine grounder ended that. Manaea faced the minimum the rest of the evening, with two more stray runners erased with GIDPs.

There weren’t even that many loud outs along the way. Once a 105-mph found a glove in LF thanks to a sliding play by Tony Kemp, and later a 379-foot drive faded on the warning track, but otherwise the other sharp hits went for the singles they deserved. The defense chipped in by turning their trio of double plays, including once in the 9th inning to make up for an error by Kemp that let a bonus runner on, but Manaea helped himself by keeping most of his contact on the ground to make those GIDPs possible, and by missing a ton of bats (19 swinging strikes).

  • Manaea: 9 ip, 0 runs, 8 Ks, 2 BB, 4 hits, 111 pitches, 88.5 mph EV

Perhaps the top highlight for Manaea was his velocity, with one pitch reaching 95.8 mph on Statcast. That’s the hardest he’s thrown since 2017 when he did it exactly once, and otherwise it’s closer to his 2016 velocity. His two previous fastest offerings this year were 95.1 and 94.6 (both in his last start on Friday), but tonight he reached at least 95.0 thrice and at least 94.6 six times.

Simply brilliant, and another chapter in what is becoming a re-breakout season for the rejuvenated southpaw. His 3.36 ERA is strong, his 3.16 FIP is even better, and his .295 xwOBA is even better than that, and if you mulligan his one disaster game at Fenway Park then those numbers all improve to ace level. The eyeball test loves all of it too, as he’s throwing as hard as he has in a half-decade and pounding the zone.

Alternate headline: Mariners try but can’t dent Manaea.

Being awarded the team trident after winning a game in Seattle against a Mariners club that once used the symbol as their logo is either an awkward conflict of imagery, or an especially appropriate symbolism after conquering them at their own home port. Imagine if the Texas Rangers coincidentally came up with an elephant trophy and then gave it out after a win at the Coliseum. (OK, first you have to imagine the A’s and Rangers ever playing a game, which still hasn’t happened yet.)

Defense

Behind every great pitching performance is some quality defense, and tonight was no exception. The A’s infielders put on a clinic, even though one of them was playing in the outfield.

This liner was the third-hardest contact off Manaea all night, and Kemp ranged over to make the grab. There are players with more range who might have gotten to it without the slide, but this is a utilityman who usually plays second base getting the job done in the opposite corner of the park.

The first double play of the night gave us a glimpse of Athletics Nation’s wildest dream, which is Matt Chapman playing shortstop. His arm is legendary at third base, but the distance is shorter from second, and when making the turn on this play the ball basically teleports from his hand to the first baseman’s glove.

Not to be outdone, fellow Gold Glover Matt Olson turned his own highlight double play. He got the chance to show off his arm and his heads-up alertness, throwing behind the lead runner after a routine putout at first. How often do you see a 4-3-6 double play?

Olson is also a Pickin Machine, and Elvis Andrus is settling in at shortstop.

Kemp did brick a routine grounder in the 9th, but only after he moved from LF to 2B to play his second position of the evening, and he was part of a 5-4-3 double play five pitches later to end the game.

Perfect rally

The A’s busted a recent slump Tuesday night when they exploded for a dozen runs. They only collected half as many on Wednesday, and almost entirely in One Big Inning, but that rally was a sampler platter of everything you want to see from an offense.

The 3rd inning began with a leadoff walk, by one of the most deeply struggling hitters in the lineup in Chapman. The only colder bat so far this year belongs to Andrus, and one out later he ripped Oakland’s second-hardest contact of the entire night for a double. They had runners on second and third with the top of the order coming up.

The run producers cashed in on the opportunity. Mark Canha ripped a single for two runs, and Olson lined his own RBI single up the middle, precisely the hits you want to see more of with runners in scoring position. Then Mitch Moreland capped it off A’s style, launching a moonshot 444 feet over the wall in CF.

As we’ve grown accustomed to this year, there was plenty of hustle mixed in. Perhaps we shouldn’t praise Andrus for ignoring both a stop sign from his 3B coach and a slide sign from his teammate at the plate, but you can’t deny he read this hit perfectly and that one reason there was no play at home was that he got himself there so quickly. He was almost rounding third when this line drive hit the ground.

Oakland picked up one more in the 9th, once again due to hustle. Kemp and Andrus singled to put themselves on the corners with one out, and Canha hit a grounder but barely beat out the double play to allow the run to score. Even up 5-0 in the final frame, the A’s are playing to win.

That extra effort by Canha also extended the inning long enough for Skye Bolt to get his first plate appearance since being called up the previous day, and his second of the year after striking out once in a Giants uniform in April. He flew out tonight, but he did it in the majors.

When all was said and done, the 7-8-9 spots in the lineup (Chapman, Kemp, Andrus) went 5-for-11 with a walk and three runs scored. After the previous night’s breakout (by Stephen Piscotty, Andrus, and Kemp), the bottom third of the order now has a two-day total of 12-for-23 with three walks, eight runs, and six RBI.

Ride the wave!

Just like that, the A’s look great again. They’ve gotten two shutouts in the span of seven games, they’re playing great defense, they’re homering again, they’re getting on base, they’re driving in runners from scoring position, and they’re getting contributions from top to bottom. It’s been a frustrating couple weeks against a pair of AL West division rivals, but they leave Seattle on a high note, playing like the heavyweight we hope they can be.