Alonso walkoff steals show from Manaea in debut
Making his much-anticipated major league debut, Sean Manaea showed flashes of brilliance for the A’s (12-12) but in the end couldn’t get an out in the sixth, and did not figure into the decision. For the Astros (7-16), reliever Tony Sipp allowed one run in taking the loss. Ryan Madson was credited with the win in relief.
Down two heading into the final two frames, the A’s delivered a rally against a divisional opponent coming off a postseason appearance. After the game, manager Bob Melvin said the comeback was especially big, due to their slide to end a 5-5 road trip:
“We want to play better at home, and any time you have a comeback, and have a walkoff — I believe it’s our first walkoff — that’s nice.”
Using a long ball from Marcus Semien (6) and speed from Billy Burns — who stole second (7) before scrambling to third on a throwing error — the A’s tied the game on a Jed Lowrie sacrifice fly in the bottom of the eighth. The runs were both applied to Houston reliever Ken Giles (0-2, 9.00 ERA) and removed Manaea’s name from the ledger.
Leading off the top of the ninth, in a tied game, Houston center fielder Carlos Gomez broke baseball’s golden rule. After crushing a booming double high off the left field wall, Gomez got over-aggressive and was thrown out trying to stretch it into a triple.
A half-inning later, Gomez made an ill-advised dive at a line drive in the gap in the bottom half. Instead of holding Stephen Vogt to a single, Gomez was unable to get leather on the ball and allowed an extra 90 feet.
The extra base ended up not mattering, though.
After a Mark Canha sacrifice bunt and a walk of Coco Crisp, who had launched a two-run bomb (3) in the second, the first baseman came up with runners at the corner and one out. Alonso sent a 1-0 sinker into the second level of seats in the right field bleachers for his first career walkoff shot, and first dinger as an Athletic.
After the game, Melvin joked that he would have:
“… taken anything in the outfield grass, but the right field bleachers works too.”
Alonso said the moment was “incredible,” adding:
“You don’t feel anything. You’re flying around the bases and, to be honest, you get goosebumps running around. You obviously want to take it all in.”
A night that ended with jubilation in the name of the first baseman Alonso began with the excitement of the A’s prized pitching prospect. And the 6-foot-5 lefty looked good early.
After deploying a slide step to help catcher Vogt nab George Springer on an attempted swipe of second he got reigning rookie of the year Carlos Correa fishing on a slider to end the first and catch his first strike out.
Even a long home run by Evan Gattis to lead off the second didn’t seem to rattle the 24-year-old.
The dinger would be the only ball hit hard off the rookie. Manaea’s control issues — which were rare through three Triple-A start in 2016 — proved the big lefty’s undoing, as he allowed four walks and a hit batsman.
After wiggling out of a jam — created by a pair of walks — in the fourth, Manaea got into a trouble from which he wasn’t able to escape in the sixth.
The “Throwin’ Samoan” hit the first batter of the inning, Springer, before walking Correa. Gattis followed with a weakly hit ground ball single through the hole, driving in one and knocking the 24-year-old rookie from the game.
After the games, Manaea said:
“It was an unreal experience, I’m so happy to be here. It could have gone a little better, it was kind of disappointing at the end, but we still got the win.”
The rookie added that he was experiencing a bout of nerves, as he struggled to command his pitches the way he would like. And, while Melvin will give the ball to another player making his 2016 debut, Jesse Hahn should not go through the same emotional roller coaster during career start No. 29 on Saturday. He faces Astro righty Chris Devenski (0-0, 0.66 ERA) for his seventh appearance — first start — on the season.