OAKLAND — Sean Manaea said the blame for Saturday’s loss fell on him.
A couple lockers down from him, Sean Doolittle was talking about how he and his fellow relievers need to do a better job when entering tough situations.
On a day that produced so much dysfunction on the diamond, at least the A’s were in sharp form afterward in trying to accept responsibility.
They lost for the second straight day to the Astros on Saturday, 10-6, and did so in ugly fashion, blowing what was a 5-0 lead at one point. There were two costly errors and some missed opportunities on offense, but the biggest breakdowns came on the pitching side.
Handing a five-run lead to Manaea usually seems a sure route to victory. But after he tossed five scoreless (and hitless) innings, things went downhill quickly for the left-hander. He walked the first three batters of the sixth, throwing eight balls in a row at one point, and then gave up Carlos Correa’s line drive that got past shortstop Adam Rosales, a play on which the A’s got charged for two errors and let two runs score.
“We played the first half of the game really well, and probably as poorly as we could play the second half of the game,” manager Bob Melvin said.
Manaea’s sizable natural ability has shined through at times over his first three starts — the Astros still hadn’t registered a hit off him when he was pulled after five-plus innings. But he couldn’t recover after he lost command of the strike zone, and he piled up 98 pitches and forced Melvin to call on his bullpen early.
“Today was a tough one,” Manaea said. “It’s completely on me. Everybody’s just sitting around waiting, long innings, and I’m putting the bullpen in a bad situation like that. For me, it’s really a mental thing.”
Manaea actually lowered his ERA from 7.15 to 5.51, but the A’s need consistency from their No. 2 starter to bolster a rotation that’s been without Sonny Gray and saw Kendall Graveman leave Friday’s start early for health reasons.
It was still a 5-2 game when Melvin went to his bullpen, but rather than restore order, the relievers let things skid completely off-course. Liam Hendriks, Santiago Casilla, Doolittle and Frankie Montas combined to allow eight runs over the final three innings.
“It just kind of snowballed on us,” Doolittle said. “I guess the silver lining here is we all kind of had a bad day at once. Hopefully we got it out of our system. There’s some guys coming into tough spots with guys on base. We gotta be better coming into games in those situations and making pitches and picking each other up.”
Any team can rebound from a 5-7 start and spotty play early on. What the A’s truly can’t afford is bad news on the injury front for a couple of their cornerstones. Shortstop Marcus Semien missed Saturday’s game and will be sidelined at least a couple more days with what’s been diagnosed as a bone contusion in his right wrist. He underwent an MRI on Saturday, but a CT scan Monday should provide more clarity on how serious the injury is.
Semien said his wrist has bothered him since late in spring training. He’s played through the discomfort, and it was only hindering him swinging the bat until Friday night, when he felt it throwing during batting practice.
A bit of mystery also surrounds Graveman after he left Friday’s start early. He explained Saturday that he had trouble getting his entire body loose. Asked if it was accurate to say it was an arm issue, Graveman said no. Whatever the case, both he and Melvin expressed hope he would be OK for his next start Wednesday.
The A’s could use a dose of good news when they take the field Sunday looking to avoid a sweep.
Doolittle spoke of the bullpen specifically with the following quote, but could have been referring to his entire team about Saturday’s loss.
“That was so bad that we just gotta turn the page, leave it here, flush it and get back to work tomorrow.”