Sean Manaea

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways as A's can't find answers vs Keuchel

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USATSI

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways as A's can't find answers vs Keuchel

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HOUSTON — Sean Manaea was much improved Friday night over his previous three starts for the A’s.

Unfortunately for the left-hander, he had no control over the work of his counterpart on the mound.

Astros lefty Dallas Keuchel was at his ground ball-inducing best, frustrating the A’s over seven scoreless innings as Houston continued its recent dominance over Oakland with a 3-1 victory in the opener of a three-game series at Minute Maid Park.

Keuchel recorded 17 of his 21 outs via ground ball, an astonishing rate but typical of the way the 2015 AL Cy Young winner likes to do business. He entered the night leading the major leagues in groundball percentage (64.7) among those with at least 90 innings pitched. Keuchel (11-2) got a big assist from his infield defense, particularly third baseman Alex Bregman and shortstop Marwin Gonzalez.

Manaea went six innings and gave up three runs, including back-to-back solo homers from Bregman and Jose Altuve in the third. But it was a definite step forward after his previous three outings, in which he surrendered 13 earned runs and 21 hits over just 6 2/3 innings.

The A’s mustered just five hits. Aside from Matt Joyce’s homer in the eighth, they didn’t advance a single runner past second base.

Oakland has dropped 11 of 13 games to Houston so far this season.

IMPROVED SHOWING: After showing signs of fatigue in his recent starts, Manaea showed improved form simply based on the batters he retired. His fastball generally sat between 89-91, still a bit below normal, but he overall pitched more effectively and turned in his longest outing since going seven innings July 27. He gave up six hits over his six innings, struck out two and walked one. A wild pitch in the sixth hurt, as it set up Josh Reddick’s RBI single.

HEY, IT’S PROGRESS: Seeing Manaea get through a scoreless first inning was noteworthy, as the A’s had gone five consecutive games with allowing at least one run in the first.

PINDER DEBUTS IN CENTER: Matt Olson entered the game as a pinch hitter in the top of the eighth, then went to right field in the bottom half. That pushed Chad Pinder over to center field, his first time playing the position in the major leagues. Manager Bob Melvin has mentioned Pinder is likely to draw some starts in center before the end of the season.

STRIKEOUTS MOUNTING FOR KD: After striking out four times Wednesday, the A’s cleanup man struck out three more times Friday. His 158 strikeouts entering the night were tied for eighth most in franchise history.

CATCHING UPDATE: Josh Phegley, coming back from a strained oblique, has played two games for Triple-A Nashville on a rehab assignment. Melvin said the A’s are not going to rush Phegley. Part of that is they think highly of the work Dustin Garneau has done in his place as the right-handed portion of the catching platoon with Bruce Maxwell.

Sean Manaea searching for answers after worst start of big league career

Sean Manaea searching for answers after worst start of big league career

OAKLAND — Sean Manaea insists there is no injury hindering him on the mound right now.

As for troubleshooting what has gone wrong over his past three starts, or how to correct it, the A’s left-hander didn’t offer many specifics after recording just one out Saturday in the shortest outing of his big league career.

“Honestly, I have no idea,” Manaea said. “I’m trying a whole bunch of different things and hopefully …. I can try to figure out how to get out of this rut. Right now I’m just trying to think about the positive things. I’ve got to carry on and try to wipe these kinds of games away.”

The Orioles sent 11 men to the plate in a seven-run first inning that paved the way to their 12-5 victory Saturday night at the Coliseum. Manaea was only around for seven of those batters. He allowed a walk, followed by six hits in succession, and A’s manager Bob Melvin went to his bullpen. Manaea was charged with six runs, the only out he recorded being a 7-6-2 play at the plate.

Some sort of physical ailment certainly wouldn’t be good news, but it would at least provide an explanation for Manaea’s recent struggles after he looked so dominant through an extended midseason stretch.

Over his past five starts, Manaea is 0-2 with a 9.31 ERA and a .400 opponents’ batting average. He wasn’t all that bad in the first two of those. But in his past three times out, Manaea has completed just 6 2/3 innings while allowing 13 earned runs on 21 hits.

“He was just missing some locations,” Melvin said of Saturday. “Balls in the middle of the plate. They hit some balls that were off the plate, in and away. It didn’t look like he had the feel for his slider. Another tough day for him.”

Manaea’s fastball didn’t top 91 miles per hour and at times sat in the high 80’s. Asked if he was concerned if that perhaps pointed to an injury, Melvin replied:

“It’s been down for a while here. Maybe it’s a dead arm state. Not dead arm, (but) it’s August. He’s got 100-plus innings. He got an extra day (of rest) this time, but he’s going to have to figure it out in his bullpens.”

Perhaps this is just a blip on the radar for a 25-year-old pitcher who is still figuring things out in just his second major league season.

The A’s aren’t playing for a postseason spot. They can afford to let Manaea work through this bout of turbulence. And if indeed there is no physical issue nagging at him, the mission is two-fold: First to identify what the problem is, and then go about fixing it.

It could be the first of those tasks is just as challenging as the second.

Instant Analysis: Orioles rough up Manaea, power past Athletics

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AP

Instant Analysis: Orioles rough up Manaea, power past Athletics

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OAKLAND — A 26-minute top of the first pretty much decided the outcome Saturday night at the Coliseum.

One big issue was left unresolved, however, by the time the A’s 12-5 loss to Baltimore finally wrapped:

What exactly is wrong with Sean Manaea right now?

The lefty faced just seven batters, giving up a walk and then six hits in a row, before A’s manager Bob Melvin called on his bullpen way earlier than he could have anticipated. The Orioles plated seven runs by the time the A’s finally returned to their dugout to bat for the first time.

The rest of the night was just filler for a crowd of 29,742 that at least had a postgame fireworks show to look forward to.

This was the third consecutive poor start for Manaea (8-7), and by far the most troubling of them. The only out recorded while he was on the mound came on a 7-6-2 putout at home plate on Adam Jones’ double.

The Orioles put good wood on anything he threw near the plate. Melvin suggested after Manaea’s previous two outings that it was merely fatigue that the lefty was fighting through. But the fact that Manaea’s fastball started out in the 88-89 mile-per-hour range Saturday, and topped out at just 91, left it open as to whether something might be bothering him physically.

The second-year starter was dialed in during an 11-start stretch from May to mid-July during which he went 7-2 with a 2.92 ERA. But over his past five outings, he is 0-2 with a 9.31 ERA and a .400 opponents’ batting average.

It was another night Saturday when the bullpen phone rang way too early. Six times over the past 15 contests A’s starters have completed fewer than four innings. Michael Brady at least kept things manageable for Melvin, relieving Manaea and eating up 5 1/3 innings while allowing three runs.

The Orioles finished with 20 hits and eight doubles, one shy of the franchise record.

There were however a few developments for A’s fans to cheer as they passed the time until fireworks. Khris Davis connected for his 32nd homer, a two-run shot to center in the first. Matt Olson went deep for the second night in a row.

Center fielder Boog Powell also had an active night in his A’s debut. After being scratched from Friday’s lineup following an asthma attack that sent him to the emergency room, Powell walked and singled in his first two plate appearances before striking out in his final three at-bats. He made a great throw to second to nail Mark Trumbo on the slugger’s base hit off the wall in center. Credit to Olson, the first baseman, for covering second base and being there to make the tag.