Now that’s more like it.
The Oakland A’s have been mired in a slump all month, but everything clicked on both sides of the ball Wednesday and they cruised to a 10-4 victory over the San Diego Padres at Petco Park.
So many of the hops that have gone against the A’s lately went in their favor this time. When they homered there were runners on base, and a couple of infield hits played big roles in rallies, and they racked up five hits with runners in scoring position plus a sac fly. It all came bunched together in a single afternoon, and one big win doesn’t make up for several weeks’ worth of one-run losses, but nonetheless it was encouraging to remember what this team can look like on a good day.
On the pitching side, Sean Manaea carried a perfect game into the 6th inning. He retired the first 16 batters he faced before issuing a walk with one out in the 6th, and then the next batter blooped a flare that barely eluded the reach of shortstop Elvis Andrus trying to make a tough over-the-shoulder catch. With two on and two out, Manaea got Fernando Tatis Jr to ground out to escape the jam.
- Manaea: 6 ip, 0 runs, 9 Ks, 1 BB, 1 hit, 90 pitches, 76.2 mph
This might have been Oakland’s best start of the year. The Padres didn’t even come close to hitting the ball hard against him, not even once. The cutoff for “hard” is 95 mph, and they peaked at 89.1 in Manaea’s six innings. I’ve written up every A’s start this year and I haven’t seen anyone do anything like that. And he struck out nine of the 20 batters he faced. And San Diego has a really good lineup.
Even if Andrus had caught that ball to keep the no-hitter going, Manaea’s pitch count was already getting up there, so it’s not an automatic that he had a complete game in him. But the only reason he didn’t work at least a little deeper is that Oakland already had such a huge lead in hand, because he was still as strong as ever in his final frame before the bullpen came in to mop up.
The A’s have fallen just one run short so many times in the past month, and all of the frustration of those just-misses came together to form one big blowout today. It would have been more useful to have spread the extra scoring around to some other games, if only life worked like that, but it sure was fun to wallop another good team.
The 1st inning featured both small-ball and power. Mark Canha drew a leadoff walk, moved to second on a grounder, stole third, and scored on a sac fly by Jed Lowrie. Manufacturing a run! A couple batters later, with two runners on base, Matt Chapman homered. Three runs in one swing!
The A’s previous eight homers had been solo shots, dating back seven games to July 19. Chapman’s dinger was the 25th by Oakland this month, and 21 have been solo.
They small-balled another run in the 2nd, on a single by Andrus, a sac bunt by Manaea, and an RBI hit by Canha, to make the score 5-0.
As if that wasn’t enough, the A’s caught a break in the 4th to pad their lead even further. With runners on the corners and none out, Andrus hit a slow grounder to the first baseman, but the fielder couldn’t decide which base to make a play at. In the end he took too long and everybody was safe, including the lead runner at home and Andrus at first for an RBI infield single. A couple batters later, Canha singled again to drive home another. (Video below includes all seven runs up through 4th inning.)
But wait, there’s more! Matt Olson led off the 8th with a double, something Oakland did twice last night without scoring either time. It almost happened again, as the next two batters were retired, but then Tatis made an error on what would have been the third out and the inning continued — after two singles and another error, three unearned runs had crossed the plate.
Entering the bottom of the 7th, the A’s led 10-0, and that was plenty. Manaea took an early shower and the bullpen took care of the rest, though San Diego did pick up a few runs in garbage time to salvage the final margin a bit.
Ride the wave!
Today the A’s finally looked like the contender we know they’re capable of being. They hit the crap out of the ball for the second straight game, they took advantage of some fortunate hops as well as some wildness by opposing star pitcher Blake Snell, and they got an elite performance out of their own starter — and not even the starter who just went to the All-Star Game.
Nothing that happened today can’t keep happening. Oakland actually made harder contact at the plate last night but only got four runs out of it, and today’s outburst was more about better sequencing plus some opponents’ mistakes than actually hitting any better or clutcher. And while Manaea won’t always throw a no-hitter, he has literally done so before and he’s capable of shutting down any opponent on any given day.
The A’s won a game! And they put the other team away by a lot instead of barely scraping by! Can they build on it, especially now that a new star hitter is joining them in outfielder Starling Marte? Keep the fAith!