The A’s (20-29) were unable to offer any offensive support for Sean Manaea who, in allowing three runs in 6 innings, was credited with his second quality start — coming in his last three starts. The Tigers (24-24) countered with Michael Fulmer (W, 4-1, 3.97), who spent much of his 7-2/3 innings pitching from the windup.
Oakland hitters combined for just three hits — two of which came with two already out in the eighth — a walk and a hit batsman, against Fulmer, who was ranked one spot ahead of Manaea (Nos. 47 and 48) on Baseball America’s Top 100 Prospects at the season’s onset.
When asked what made Fulmer so tough, first baseman Yonder Alonso said very little:
“There is not much to say. The scoreboard says it all, right. He retired a lot of guys… I think, in general, we’ve got to have better at-bats collectively.”
The night got off to an inspiring start for Manaea (L, 1-3, 7.03 ERA), who gave up a long drive off the bat of Tigers lead-off man Ian Kinsler on the second pitch of the game. Center fielder Billy Burns leapt to his starter’s rescue, flagging the deep liner down with a diving snag near the center-field warning track.
The “Throwin’ Samoan,” who called the catch “unreal,” finished the first frame without allowing a base runner, before getting out of a jam in the second.
Kinsler refused to go away, though, as the second baseman collected three hits, including a double and a triple, scoring one of the Detroit runs.
A fly ball off the bat of nine-hole hitter Jose Iglesias allowed Manaea to escape a two-run fourth inning one spot away from facing Kinsler. Before he was able to get Iglesias, though, the Tigers tagged Manaea with a pair of runs on RBI hits from Cameron Maybin and James McCann.
Leading off the fifth, Kinsler hooked a grounder just inside the bag at third for a double. After a fly ball to right moved Kinsler third, Manaea fell behind Miguel Cabrera before issuing the former Triple Crown winner an intentional walk. Designated hitter Victor Martinez then followed with a double play that neither Manaea or Alonso had ever seen before.
A pop fly in foul territory was hauled in over-the-shoulder style by Alonso at first. Seeing an opening to get a third run, Kinsler tagged and attempted to score. The throw from Alonso, which was on target sending the runner retreating, glanced off the leg of a lumbering Martinez. The contact was enough to send the ball careening towards the home dugout, chasing Kinsler home.
The run was disallowed, however, with Kinsler being deemed out on when Martinez was called for interference.
Of the play, Alonso said:
“It was a weird play. I just caught the ball and threw home. The next thing you know, he had his head down so it hit him right on the foot. It worked out for us.”
The Tigers added their fourth and final run in the sixth, when Nick Castellanos sent Manaea’s first offering over the left-field wall, for home run No. 10.
Manager Bob Melvin said that, despite the loss, he feels the 24-year-old has made improvements with each start. And Manaea concurred:
“My slider was non-existent, the first couple games. These past two games, it’s finally starting to come around. (Since going to a different grip), the change-up has been good to me. My fastball has always been there… But, yeah, I would definitely say I’m improving with each start.”
Two days off the disabled list, second baseman Jed Lowrie came up with the biggest hit of the night for the A’s with a triple in the ninth, driving in the only Oakland run (18).
Melvin said he was happy to see his team offer some fight in the ninth, but added that “a loss is a loss.” The skipper addressed his team’s recent struggles with scoring runs:
“One: we’ve been pitched to pretty well. And two: we’re not taking advantage of some situations when we get some guys on, or maybe missing a pitch or two in an at-bat that you have a chance to do some damage with.”
The A’s will look to take advantage of more of those situations on Saturday, when they will once again face off with the Tigers in a matinee.
Getting the ball for the home team will be Jesse Hahn (1-2, 4.07 ERA). Detroit will counter with Matt Boyd (0-0, 0.00 ERA), who will make his first start after getting 4-2/3 innings of relief work in his only appearance this season.