In a season where A’s starting pitchers have been dropping left and right, Sean Manaea has been the club’s iron man.
Making his 17th start of the year, Manaea overcame a rough to set the A’s up for a 4-2 victory over the Tigers Thursday, completing a four-game sweep of Detroit and capping off an impressive 8-2 road trip.
Of the A’s 12 starting pitchers used this season, Manaea is the only one who has not missed a start this season. He’s had his highs and lows, From throwing a no-hitter against the Boston Red Sox and earning AL Player of the Month honors for April, to going through one of the worst stretches of his career over the month of May.
Manaea still hasn’t quite found that April form, but he’s getting close.
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“The way things are going, you feel like you have to have one guy that you lean on to be your horse,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “He is that guy for us.”
After surrendering a two-run shot to Nicholas Castellanos in the first that gave the Tigers (36-46) a 2-0 lead just three batters into his start, Manaea settled down by retiring 14 of his next 15 batters faced. He ran into some trouble in the sixth by loading the bases after two outs with three straight singles allowed, but the left-hander regrouped and was able to run a fastball inside to Niko Goodrum for a called strike three to end the inning and his outing.
Manaea finished the day allowing just two runs on five hits and one walk, striking out two batters over six innings of work. He earned the win to improve to 8-6 on the year and lower his ERA to 3.38. It’s a workload unlike anything he’s experienced over his three seasons in the big leagues, with his 106 2/3 innings pitched this season the ninth-most by a starter in the majors, but it’s a challenge the 26-year-old left-hander welcomes.
“I just want to go out every start and put the team in good position to win. I think I’ve been doing a pretty good job of that,” Manaea said. “It’s definitely the most innings I’ve ever thrown in this stretch, but everything is feeling good and I just continue to do what I’ve been doing.”
The A’s (44-38) put Manaea in line for a win in the third when Mark Canha, Jed Lowrie and Khris Davis each drove in runs on three straight singles off Michael Fulmer. Chad Pinder added on with a double in the fourth that scored Stephen Piscotty, giving the A’s 62 runs scored over the 10-game road trip.
After Manaea’s solid six innings, the trio of Emilio Pagan, Lou Trivino, and Blake Treinen closed out the game with three hitless innings. Treinen got around a walk in the ninth to convert his 16th consecutive save opportunity and 20th save this season.
Despite the nightmarish string of injuries that currently features seven A’s starting pitchers on the disabled list, as well as starting third baseman Matt Chapman, the A’s will head back to Oakland six games over .500 just one game past the halfway point of the season.
It’s the highest the A’s have been above .500 through 82 games since they were 51-31 in 2014, the last season they reached the postseason. The 8-2 road trip is also the first time the A’s have won at least eight games on a trip since going 10-0 in August 2002.
“It’s tough to win a four-game series and we’ve done it twice on the road this year,” Melvin said. “Overall, just a great trip. And so many times we came back, too. You get down today, you’re trying to sweep a team, and the next thing you know we have another big inning. “These guys just continue to grind on it. Everybody’s contributing, and there’s a great feeling because of that.”
Making the trip more impressive was the handful of games the A’s were able to rally late for comeback victories, including the first two games against the Tigers in which the A’s found themselves facing a four-run deficit late in each.
“It was awesome,” Pinder said. “Battling back, obviously that’s the difference between going on a 6-4 road trip or 8-2. If we lay down there and let those guys keep rolling over us, it’s a whole different road trip and we’re having a different conversation.”