OAKLAND -- Sean Manaea loaded the bases with no outs in the top of the sixth inning Wednesday on two walks and a single. It was the kind of situation in which A’s manager Bob Melvin said he’s "had to go get" the left-hander a few times in his rookie season.
This time, with a four-run lead, Melvin gave Manaea the chance to work through a jam. Manaea allowed one run on a sacrifice fly to the Twins’ Eduardo Escobar, but he struck out the next two batters to put an emphatic end on his outing and help the A’s finish a three-game sweep of Minnesota with a 5-1 win.
"That’s what you want to see," Melvin said, "is him being able to get through stretches like that where there’s some adversity, and get out of it with limited damage like he did."
Overall, Melvin said he thought Manaea’s six innings were "probably the best that he’s pitched for us." Manaea recorded a career-high eight strikeouts and scattered five hits, four of them singles. More importantly for the 24-year-old with the carefree clubhouse demeanor, he was able in the sixth to maintain that same collectedness on the mound.
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"I felt like I was just kind of being lazy," Manaea said. After he walked Byung Ho Park to load the bases, "I gathered myself and told myself, ‘Bear down and get this guy. You’re not going to let these guys score, and you’re not going to let them get close.’
"That was kind of the mindset I had and it worked. I just have to learn from that and have that same mindset when that situation happens again."
Manaea, who had a 7.00 ERA in five May starts, agreed with Melvin that he had better feel for his pitches Wednesday -- particularly his slider, which he was "actually able to throw for a strike and have it do what I wanted." Catcher Josh Phegley, though, sounded more impressed by the changeup he saw from Manaea, whom he was catching for the first time.
"That changeup works really well off the plane of his fastball," Phegley said. "It’s really tough to pick up, and he got lot of swings on it and kept it down in the zone."
Phegley said that regardless of how many times he has worked with a pitcher, he calls the pitch "that I’m feeling at that time" and will defer if the pitcher wants to throw something different. Wednesday, Manaea seemed content to follow Phegley’s lead.
"I made him shake (me off) a couple times just to keep the hitters off-balance, but I can’t remember him shaking me," Phegley said. "He trusted what I was calling and I think that takes the pressure of him as far as thinking. He just gets the sign and executes that pitch, and he had a heck of an outing today."
The A’s backed Manaea with single runs in the second through sixth innings, driven in by five different players. The win was their fifth in a row, one short of their longest streak of the season, though they remain four games under .500 entering an eight-game road trip that includes a pair of interleague series in Milwaukee and Cincinnati.
"We’ve played well," Melvin said. "We have a few guys that are swinging the bat well, the bullpen’s pitched pretty well, defense has been much better this homestand. Put all that together and typically you run off a few wins."
Manaea, who won for the second time in his seven major-league starts, said he’s "a lot more" comfortable now than the pitcher who debuted for the A’s on April 29.
"Those first couple starts, I was just trying to take everything in and just experience everything," he said. "Right now it’s like I’m here and it’s just, it’s my job. I’ve got to go out and have that dominant mindset like nobody’s going to get a hit off me."