Manaea, bullpen can't hit the brakes as A's squander big lead

Manaea, bullpen can't hit the brakes as A's squander big lead

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.”

 

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from A's first road sweep of 2017

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from A's first road sweep of 2017

BOX SCORE

The A’s sprung to life offensively in the late innings Sunday and polished off their first road sweep of 2017.

They scored all five of their runs over the final three innings to beat the Chicago White Sox 5-3, continuing an odd stretch of streakiness. The A’s swept the New York Yankees in four at the Coliseum, then turned around and dropped four in a row to the Houston Astros before arriving in Chicago and taking all three from the Sox. It’s their first sweep on the road since they won four in Kansas City from Sept. 12-15 of last season.

The weekend’s events provided a morale boost for a team that began the series an American League-worst 9-25 away from home. The sweep also featured numerous contributions from a pack of recently promoted young players fresh from the minors.

The A’s had no answer for left-hander Derek Holland through six-plus innings, mustering just four hits off the veteran. But trailing 2-0, they got on the board with Jed Lowrie’s pinch-hit RBI double in the seventh. The next inning, Khris Davis singled home the tying run and Yonder Alonso followed with a go-ahead single down the left-field line to put the A’s up 3-2.

They tacked on two insurance runs in the ninth on back-to-back homers from Adam Rosales and Matt Joyce.

Sonny rebounds: Sonny Gray (3-3) avoided the early trouble that plagued his last start, working seven innings and being rewarded with a victory thanks to the A’s eighth-inning rally. He struck out seven and walked just one. That was a key as Gray had issued seven free passes combined in his previous two starts. Adam Engel hit a 2-1 fastball for a homer in the third, then Jose Abreu scored on a passed ball in the fourth to give Chicago a 2-0 lead. But Gray held the Sox to just four hits over his seven innings.

Sign of things to come? Franklin Barreto got a look as the No. 2 hitter in the order Sunday, a spot that some scouts feel he’ll be well suited for as his career unfolds. He singled to the opposite field in his first at-bat, then struck out looking in his next two trips to the plate. In the eighth, his broken-bat single to left jumpstarted Oakland’s two-run go-ahead rally. Barreto is 4-for-10 in his first two games with the big club.

Joyce provides a lift off the bench: Joyce entered as a pinch runner in the seventh and connected for his 10th homer, right after Rosales had gone deep himself. Joyce became the fourth Athletic to crack double figures in homers, and the A’s improved to 31-26 when they hit at least one home run (they’re 3-16 when they don’t).

Doo does it again: Lefty reliever Sean Doolittle continued to deal since coming off the disabled list. He threw a scoreless eighth with two strikeouts and has allowed just one hit over five innings in six appearances since his return.

An unwanted milestone: The Sox scored their second run on a passed ball by Josh Phegley, which accounted for Oakland’s 50th unearned run, most in the majors. They had just 43 unearned runs all of last season.

Former A's catcher Stephen Vogt claimed by NL Central team

Former A's catcher Stephen Vogt claimed by NL Central team

A new team believes in Stephen Vogt.

The former A's catcher, who was designated for assignment on Thursday, was claimed by the Milwaukee Brewers on Sunday.

The A's announced the transaction shortly before their game against the White Sox.

News of the Brewers making the waiver claim was first reported by ESPN.

The Brewers were the only team to place a waiver claim on Vogt, according to The San Francisco Chronicle.

Vogt, a clubhouse leader and one of the longest tenured A's, hit just .217 with four home runs and 20 RBI in 54 games this season.