Manaea grounds Blue Jays as Healy, A’s soar

Sean Manaea entered Monday’s game having allowed five or fewer hits while working two or more innings in 15 consecutive starts, tied for the longest such streak in the American League since 1913, the earliest those stats were recorded.

Manaea extended that run of dominance, quieting the Toronto Blue Jays (28-30) over 6 innings, and, with the help of another thunderous performance by Ryon Healy, gave his Oakland Athletics (25-32) a 5-3 victory to open the series.

This story has been updated with quotes and post-game material from the A’s clubhouse at the Oakland Coliseum.

About the second-year slugger’s performance, manager Bob Melvin joked:

“If he doesn’t show up for work today we’re in a little bit of trouble.”

Healy game into the game proving to be a much more productive asset while splitting his focus between at-bats and fielding.

In the 26 games played penciled in at a defensive position, Healy boasts a .320 average with 11 home runs and 18 RBIs. Conversely, as a designated hitter, his average plummets to a very modest .231, while his production also takes a hit — four home runs and 10 RBIs in 28 games.

Getting the start as the DH Monday, Healy did his best to flip those splits on their ear bashing a pair of impressive home runs (12, 13) in a 2-for-3 night, knocking in all of Oakland’s runs.

Melvin who was an especially light-hearted mood, offered further repartee:

“It’s not often a younger guy like that has the DH role, we’ve even thought about hitting him some ground balls in the clubhouse between innings.”

Upon hearing the statement, Healy let out a healthy laugh before offering his own quip:

“He jokes about that, but I was seriously playing wall-ball with myself in Houston. I had a glove in the tunnel and I was throwing the ball against the wall, I felt like a five-year-old kid that was in time-out.”

The offense was initiated when Manaea (W, 5-3, 3.81 ERA) and Blue Jays hurler J.A. Happ exchanged cheap rallies, each walking a lead-off hitter in the early innings.

The Blue Jays capitalized on Kevin Pillar‘s walk to start the game, getting a Josh Donaldson RBI double to make night’s first mark on the scoreboard.

Manaea said critical walks continue to be an issue that must be remedied:

“The two runs I gave up were walks. It comes back to lead-off walks, or two-out walks, and giving up those runs — the more I can minimize that the better things will be.”

Oakland and Khris Davis got their critical free pass opening the second.

Yonder Alonso got a little help as well, when a soft liner knuckled just enough to evade second baseman Darwin Barney. Two pitches later Healy made both mistakes hurt, pulverizing an 0-1 changeup well over the 288-foot marker and onto the stair to camera well in center field for a three-run homer.

Happ (L, 0-4, 5.33 ERA) didn’t learn his lesson, though, walking Khris once again to start the fourth. While Alonso was unable to provide a repeat performance, striking out on three pitches, Healy did exactly that, sending a 2-2 fastball mere feet to the left of his previous homer’s landing spot, into the furthest right section of bleachers in left-center.

Healy said it is important to cash in on free 90’s, especially when they come to start an inning:

“You’ve seen teams do that against us a lot this year. I think that’s an opportunity that we will continue to build on because we’re a team that will walk. … Solo home runs are great and dandy, but we need home runs when runners are on base, that’s going to help us to win ballgames.”

The Blue Jays starter was removed after 5-1/3, serving up four hits and a season-high five runs.

Looking to spark something for his team, Toronto Pillar turned to speed and aggression on the base paths in the fifth, after doubling Ezequiel Carrera in to make it a 5-2 game. Breaking basic base running rules looked, at first, to be a heady play for the center fielder when he advanced from second to third on a Donaldson ground-out to shortstop Chad Pinder in the hole, beating Alonso’s return throw from first.

He got too greedy, however, trying to snag a run on Jose Bautista‘s grounder to third, instead being nailed by Trevor Plouffe, who threw a strike to Josh Phegley at home.

The play was received with ferocious applause and a yell from Manaea, who responded to the play by striking out Kendrys Morales ending the frame and earning his first perfect inning of the night in the sixth, his last.

The “Throwin’ Samoan” finished allowing four hits, extending his AL record stretch to 16, though he did walk four. He also struck out seven, using a major league career-high 111 pitches.

Though he has reached as high as 156 pitches on two occasions, in high school and college, he told SFBay, the 111 was also a professional high:

“Today was one of those days that, some things were working I just had to grid through and find ways to get outs.”

Added the skipper:

“When he’s been in control early on, it seems like he dominates. When he’s not (in control) early on, and it looked like his command was a little bit off, we’ve seem him a couple times now recover. I was down three or four guys in the bullpen today, so he needed to pitch deep in the game for us.”

Plouffe, whose 0-for-3 night at the plate extended his hitless stretch to 25 at-bats, made his mark with the glove twice more, using lighting quick reflexes to snag a pair of liners robbing Toronto of hits in the seventh and eighth, and adding a great backhand pick down the line for the second out in the ninth.

Melvin said Plouffe’s defense was much needed, calling the last of his gems a “very key play”:

“When you’re not swinging great you’d better bring your glove and do something productive, and he certainly did. That last play he made … that’s a huge play, you muff that one and now it’s down in the corner and it’s a whole different ballgame.”

Toronto’s big bird Justin Smoak, who got two hits in four at-bats, added another in the eighth on a solo homer (15) off Liam Hendriks. But closer Santiago Casilla (S, 9, 4.43 ERA) kept things there, striking out Donaldson to seal the win around a one-out walk.

Said Healy:

“A lot of guys are not happy with the way things have gone this season, so having the self-awareness to make the improvements, make the adjustments, will help us as a team and as a whole, and give us better success.”

On deck

Jesse Hahn (1-4, 3.81 ERA) will come off the disable list (right triceps) to make the start Tuesday night. He has been saddled with a loss in each of his last two appearances and three of his last five, and has not earned a win since April 15. Toronto will counter with Armando Estrada, who was tagged for five runs in 4 innings losing his only previous outing against the A’s.

Notes

Ryon Healy recorded his second-career two-homer game. The previous came just two days prior, Saturday, against the Washington Nationals. His five RBIs were also a career-high. … In his second rehab outing, reliever Sean Doolittle (left shoulder) tossed a perfect inning for the Single-A Stockton Ports. He needed just 14 pitches to strike out the side in order. … Sean Manaea’s streak of 16 consecutive outings with five or fewer hits and two or more innings moved him past Tom Gordon, who reached as many as 15 in 1992.


Kalama Hines is SFBay’s sports director and Oakland Athletics beat writer. Follow @SFBay and @HineSight_2020 on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of A’s baseball.