All-or-nothing A's offense leads to another frustrating defeat

All-or-nothing A's offense leads to another frustrating defeat

SEATTLE — The A’s can only hope that the sight of Khris Davis and Stephen Vogt circling the bases leads to brighter days ahead.

If you need a positive takeaway from Monday’s 6-5 loss to the Mariners, it was those two hitters breaking long home run dry spells. But as the A’s are proving, the long ball doesn’t get the job done by itself.

Right now, the A’s are doing just enough wrong to negate all the right.

In getting swept by the Rangers, they took a lead in every game but couldn’t build on it, leaving the door open for Texas to break through against the bullpen.

On Monday, they fell behind early thanks to starter Sean Manaea’s wild ride of a first couple innings. They battled back with Davis’ solo homer and Vogt’s two-run shot to pull within a run. But then another shaky outing from reliever Liam Hendriks coupled with a throwing error from shortstop Chad Pinder led to two more Seattle runs in the eighth that ultimately proved the difference.

The game ended with the Rangers’ Tony Zych painting the outside corner with a 95 mile-per-hour fastball to ring up Adam Rosales with the bases loaded, an A’s comeback rally thwarted.

“‘We had one other bases-loaded situation and didn’t get anything out of it, which hurt us at the time,” manager Bob Melvin said. “It’s easy just to look back at how the last inning played out, but there were some opportunities when we had a chance to score some runs.”

Primarily, there was the seventh. The A’s loaded the bases that inning, trailing 4-3, but Matt Joyce chased a third strike from Dan Altavilla and Jed Lowrie grounded to second.

What to make of this A’s offense? They rank fourth in the American League in homers and they’re tied with the Yankees and Rangers for most multi-homer games (17). But it’s all or nothing, as the A’s rank second-to-last in the league in runs scored, which is the only stat that ultimately matters. Their .205 average with runners in scoring position is the lowest in the majors, and missed opportunities are contributing to losses of the most frustrating variety.

“We should have won that ballgame — bottom line,” Vogt said.

Manaea put them in an early hole, walking four in a two-run first and giving up four runs but finishing strong in a crazy five-inning return from the disabled list.

The lefty said his issue was trying “to make things too fine when I should be out there attacking and making guys put the ball in play and trusting my defense. I just didn’t do that. … It’s tough, I try not to think like that. But sometimes it just happens like that.

“That’s just been the story of this whole season is walking guys. I just gotta figure out a way to eliminate them.”

Big picture, Melvin and Vogt both came away encouraged with the way Manaea steadied himself with three perfect innings to close his night.

Davis came away encouraged with his homer to dead center that capped a 12-pitch at-bat and snapped a string of 12 games without going deep.

An inning later, Vogt — who lives in Washington in the offseason and always has a big cheering section at Safeco Field — hit his first homer since Opening Night and ended a career-long streak of 27 games without a home run. He’s been working hard with hitting coach Darren Bush and assistant hitting coach Marcus Jensen to turn around what’s been a dismal start to his season.

“The whole season has been weighing on me offensively,” said Vogt, who’s hitting .217. “I really didn’t think about homers as much as just trying to see good pitches. I got away from that my first six weeks. I’m still battling that and trying to come out of that. I felt really good about my last week, unfortunately it didn’t matter tonight.”

Individual triumphs will have to do until the A’s find a way to get all parts of their game clicking.

Manaea's 'big mentality switch' keys success in first Yankee Stadium start

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Manaea's 'big mentality switch' keys success in first Yankee Stadium start

NEW YORK — Dealt another dose of injury bad news Friday, the A’s got to temporarily push those thoughts aside once Sean Manaea took the mound.

The big lefty shined in his first career outing at Yankee Stadium, matching Masahiro Tanaka pitch for pitch and spinning his best start of the season in a 4-1 A’s victory.

After he walked leadoff man Brett Gardner on four pitches in the first, it conjured up memories of his five-walk outing two starts ago at Seattle. But from that point on Manaea locked in, allowing just four hits over seven innings and striking out eight. Not a single Yankee advanced past second base against him.

“He was out there chucking,” A’s left fielder Khris Davis said. “He’s got that Chris Sale stuff where people are swinging and missing in the zone. It’s great to see that.”

The day began with news that Opening Night starter Kendall Graveman and fellow starter Jesse Hahn both are likely headed to the disabled list with shoulder and triceps strains, respectively. It continues the cycle of injury woes for the A’s, who have lost every starter except Andrew Triggs to at least one stint on the 10-day DL. With two-fifths of the rotation down for an unknown period of time, Manaea takes on an even more significant role.

“For a young guy we’ve leaned on him pretty hard since he’s gotten here, but now probably a little bit more so,” manager Bob Melvin said.

Yet no matter what is unfolding elsewhere on the pitching staff, the challenge for Manaea always stems from within. He’s talked often this season about the need to be mentally tougher and more aggressive attacking the strike zone. After the leadoff walk to Gardner, Manaea (3-3) said a switch flipped inside of him.

“I was thinking that these guys weren’t gonna hit me at all, and that I just needed to throw strikes and trust the defense,” he said. “I know I can get these guys out. To me it was a big mentality switch, and just believing in myself and trusting everything.”

Tanaka, who has disappointed this season to the tune of a 6.56 ERA entering Friday, put it together against Oakland and rang up a career-high 13 strikeouts without a single walk. But Manaea was more than up to the task, keeping New York off the board until the A’s scored twice in the eighth to snap a scoreless tie off former Athletic Tyler Clippard, who relieved Tanaka to start that inning.

“He was pitching with a lot of confidence, and that’s what I love to see,” A’s catcher Stephen Vogt said of Manaea. “He wants the ball, wanted to keep going out there. It was awesome.”

Manaea dazzles, A's offense comes on late to beat Yankees

Manaea dazzles, A's offense comes on late to beat Yankees

BOX SCORE

NEW YORK -- Masahiro Tanaka struck out a career-high 13 to rebound from the worst stretch of his major league career but wound up a hard-luck loser when reliever Tyler Clippard's wild pickoff throw sparked a go-ahead, two-run eighth inning in the Oakland Athletics' 4-1 win over the New York Yankees on Friday night.

Sean Manaea (3-3), starting because Kendall Graveman was scratched with a sore pitching shoulder, matched Tanaka and allowed four hits in seven innings with six strikeouts and a walk. Ryan Madson pitched a perfect eighth and New York loaded the bases with one out in the ninth against Santiago Casilla before Didi Gregorius hit a sacrifice fly and pinch-hitter Gary Sanchez popped out.

Tanaka (5-4) left with the game scoreless after allowing Adam Rosales' one-out single in the eighth, and Jed Lowrie and Khris Davis followed with run-scoring hits off Clippard. Stephen Vogt added a two-run homer in the ninth against Jonathan Holder.

With Aroldis Chapman sidelined by left shoulder inflammation and Dellin Betances moved from setup man to temporary closer, the Yankees' bullpen has stumbled of late.

Squaring his shoulders more than in recent starts, Tanaka allowed five hits, walked none and threw 76 of 111 pitches for strikes. He got 25 swings and misses - his most in the majors - and the usually undemonstrative 28-year-old tipped his cap to applauding fans while he walked to the dugout.

Tanaka was booed loudly in his previous home start, when he was chased by Houston after allowing three homers and eight runs in 1 2/3 innings. And he had been pounded for 14 runs over 4 2/3 innings in his previous two outings.

His return to form not surprisingly took place with Austin Romine behind the plate. Tanaka has a 2.21 ERA when pitching to Romine and a 12.27 ERA to Gary Sanchez, New York's No. 1 catcher.

Tanaka struck out eight of first 11 batters and nine of his opening 15. He fanned Mark Canha in a 10-pitch at-bat leading off the eighth, then was replaced after Rosales' hit to center.

Clippard threw past first baseman Chris Carter for an error that allowed Rosales to reach third, and Rajai Davis hit a two-hopper to third baseman Chase Headley, who threw to the plate in time for Romine to tag Rosales, who slid headfirst.

Matt Joyce, who had struck out his first three times up, drew a walk and Lowie singled to right as Rajai Davis came home and Joyce took third. Khris Davis grounded to Gregorius, who stopped the ball with a slide deep in the hole, and Davis just beat the shortstop's throw.

FLEET WEEK

The crowd of 39,044 included many sailors in their naval whites.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Athletics: Graveman and RHP Jesse Hahn are likely both headed to the DL with ailing shoulders. ... 1B Yonder Alonso missed his second straight start because of a sore right wrist, an injury sustained when hit by a pitch from Miami's Jarlin Garcia on Tuesday.

Yankees: A day after CF Jacoby Ellsbury went on the seven-day concussion DL, Yankees manager Joe Girardi said it was hard to predict when he will return . The medical staff was determining what Ellsbury can do. "It won't be much for a few days," he said. ... Chapman is to play catch Saturday, his first baseball activity since May 12.

UP NEXT

LHP CC Sabathia (4-2) pitches Saturday for the Yankees after winning consecutive starts for the first time since June 10 and 16 last year. RHP Jharel Cotton, 3-4 with a 5.68 ERA before he was optioned to Triple-A Nashville on May 11, will be recalled to start for Oakland. We was 2-0 with a 2.25 ERA in a pair of minor league starts.