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Game #140: Manaea’s arm, Marte’s legs lead A’s to second straight win

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Big series victory over contending White Sox

Chicago White Sox v Oakland Athletics Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

That’s two in a row!

The Oakland A’s beat the Chicago White Sox for the second straight game on Thursday, this time by a 3-1 score. The victory means Oakland wins the series at the Coliseum over a top contender, a positive sign as the A’s try to rekindle their own dwindling postseason hopes.

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

Like last night, the story this afternoon revolved around starting pitching. Sean Manaea tossed seven sparkling innings, keeping the White Sox at bay and limiting the need to rely on Oakland’s recently shaky bullpen. He worked around a couple early rallies, with one run scoring in the 3rd, then retired eight straight batters. Chicago hit a few balls hard but not many, and the lefty kept them in the park and didn’t offer much help via walks, even despite getting squeezed a couple times on the corners of the strike zone.

  • Manaea: 7 ip, 1 run, 9 Ks, 1 BB, 5 hits, 101 pitches, 89.3 mph EV

He appears to have put his August slump behind him, as this was his second straight seven-inning gem since the beginning of September, and both against good opponents. This is the star we saw for the first four months of the year. If Manaea is indeed back on track, to pair with the hot Frankie Montas, then that’s a big boost for a rotation that’s shown signs of wear lately — as well as a bullpen that’s been tasked with picking up the extra workload.

For most of the day, Manaea got to pitch with a lead, thanks to some early offense by the A’s lineup.

They missed a chance in the 1st inning when a runner was picked off second base, but in the 2nd they put together a pair of extra-base hits to bring home a run. Jed Lowrie led off with a double, and Tony Kemp slapped an RBI triple into the LF corner.

Oakland frustratingly stranded Kemp at third base, and in the top of the 3rd inning the White Sox tied it up against Manaea. But the A’s answered right back in the bottom half, thanks to some mischief on the bases. See if you can guess who was at the center of it.

With one out, Starling Marte singled up the middle. He promptly attempted a steal of second base and initially he was called out, but upon replay review it was overturned and he was safe for his MLB-leading 44th swipe of the year. Matt Olson drew a walk to put another runner on, and then Chicago pitcher Reynaldo Lopez tried something that had worked for him earlier in the day — a pickoff at second base. This time his throw skipped away into shallow right-center field, giving time for Marte to score standing up and Olson to hustle to third.

Next up was Matt Chapman, who lofted a ball plenty deep in left field for Olson to tag and score on a sac fly. Both runs counted as unearned due to Lopez’s error, but give Marte credit for creating the opportunity with his legs.

Side note: Chapman’s fly was caught in foul territory. Should the outfielder have let it drop? Catching it surrendered a run, but letting it go could have given them another chance at retiring Chapman in some way that didn’t bring home Olson (like a strikeout, something Chapman leads the team in). Perhaps too risky to be worth it, especially when considering the fielder has to judge the location of the foul line in a visiting stadium in real time, but food for thought.

Those unearned runs proved crucial, as Oakland didn’t score again all day. They got a couple more chances in the 4th and 5th, but then their final 10 batters were retired in order.

That left it up to the bullpen. The bad news was the A’s only led by a slim margin of two runs. The good news was Manaea’s long effort meant the relievers only needed to chip in two innings.

The 8th went to Sergio Romo, who made it through with just a two-out single. The 9th went to Andrew Chafin, a bold call as he had just thrown two frames last night. But the lefty stayed sharp, got the first two outs, allowed a double, and then induced a popout to seal the save, his second in 18 hours.

Signs of life

That’s two straight days of great pitching against a playoff team. Now the test will be to see who else besides Montas, Manaea, Chafin, and Romo can step up to keep the line moving.

For now, it’s a desperately needed series win to halt the descent down the Wild Card standings, and reassuring proof that the A’s can compete with top opponents.