Suzuki punishes A’s in extras, leads Braves to sweep
For the third time in as many days the Oakland Athletics got an outstanding performance from their starting pitcher. None of the three netted a win.
Behind another long Khris Davis home run, the A’s (35-47) were able to scratch out enough offense to get starter Sean Manaea off the hook, but not enough to avoid a 4-3 sweep-sealing loss in 12 innings on Sunday.
As Sonny Gray and Paul Blackburn had done before him, Manaea overwhelmed the Atlanta Braves. But, after his 7-1/3 innings of two-run ball, the big lefty was left to watch as the Braves (40-41) pushed across the winning run in extra innings.
Manager Bob Melvin was more than happy with the effort of his young hurler — and all three, who offered up a combined 21-1/3 innings holding Atlanta to three earned runs, for that matter:
“Manaea pitched great — again. Even when he has an inning or two when it looks like he’s out of sync, he ends up coming out of the game after 7-plus and only two runs. He did his part, we just didn’t do enough offensively. Really, the whole series, we didn’t do enough offensively.”
After opening the scoring in the 2nd with a solo home run (5), former Athletic Kurt Suzuki finished things off with his second solo homer (6) to lead off the 12th, handing John Axford (L, 0-1, 5.79 ERA) the loss.
Melvin was Suzuki’s manager in Oakland the last time he tallied a multi-homer game in 2011. The skipper said:
“He’s got some power, and he’s smart — he knows when to look for the fastball and get the head, and he did both times.”
Suzuki had started the scoring in the second inning by mashing an 0-2 Manaea fastball into the seats in left. The Braves added on to Suzuki’s long ball with a little bit of small ball.
Danny Santana, who walked, stole second (5) and was moved to third on a ground-out to third by Johan Camargo. With a chopper down the first base line, sneaking just under the glove Yonder Alonso, Ender Inciarte cashed in to make it 2-0.
Manaea (ND, 7-4, 3.75 ERA) got some help ending the threat when Matt Olson, starting in right field, denied Brandon Phillips an RBI cutting down Inciarte at the plate on a perfect throw to Bruce Maxwell. Manaea locked in from there.
He worked around a Jed Lowrie error leading off the third by getting Matt Kemp to ground into a double play. Then got the same from from Camargo, following a one-out walk, to end the seventh. He got another huge hand from the defense to end the fifth.
After hitting Phillips with two down, Manaea slung a 2-2 slider past Maxwell, then watched his catcher play a hard carom off off the backstop with the barehand, a la Atlanta great third baseman Chipper Jones playing a bunt, then turning to gun down Phillips attempting to snake second.
The Oakland offense finally got loose on Braves starter Julio Teheran, who didn’t allow a hit until the fourth, when Khris got the A’s on the board with a solo dinger (23) just to the right of straight-away center field.
Franklin Barreto, who entered the fray after Ryon Healy departed in the third with upper back spasms, skied a towering pop up on the infield, but Phillips, the four-time Gold Glove winner, couldn’t navigate the East Bay sun instead choosing to duck and cover letting it fall in the dirt. Maxwell and Jaycob Brugman followed the single with walks to load the bags for Adam Rosales.
Having Barreto on in place of Healy turned out to give the A’s an advantage as the speedy shortstop raced home to tie the game on a sacrifice fly to medium-deep center field without a throw.
Now tied, Melvin gave Manaea one last chance to put himself in position for a win. But a ground-ball single up the middle by Inciarte, the Braves first hit since the second, forced the Oakland skipper’s hand.
Manaea, who got one out in the eighth, surrendered six hits and two walks, striking out six and out-dueling Teheran (ND, 6-6, 5.14 ERA), who allowed just three hits and struck out eight, but walked four in his 6-1/3.
Coming off a start in which he felt his whole body felt “heavy,” Manaea said he felt much better Sunday:
“I felt a lot better than I did last time, and I guess it kinda showed — velo was there, and I just thought I was locating things a lot better.”
“Felt like I was locating my fastball a lot better, except for the 0-2 pitch to Suzuki — that one, I just kinda left out over the middle of the plate and not up enough. … A couple mistakes are what was the deciding factor in this outing.”
After locking down saves in the first two games of the series, Jim Johnson (W, 5-1, 3.68 ERA) served up three walks (one intentional) wrapped around a single to tie things up in the 11th. But getting a pop-out and two strikeouts, he was able to wiggle free of a loss stranding the bases loaded with Rajai Davis left looking at strike three.
“We had one big inning where we had a chance to win it — We didn’t. We didn’t do much before that, but maximized out opportunity in one inning. We didn’t come through and it ended up costing us.”
Arodys Vizcaino (S, 2, ERA) did what Johnson couldn’t, striking out two to end the game. The A’s finished 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position.
After sweeping them in Chicago, the A’s will play host to the White Sox (36-45) for three games starting Monday. Jharel Cotton (5-7, 5.02 ERA) will get the start after nine days after shutting the Sox out for 5 innings before departing with a blister. The South Siders will counter with Carlos Rodon (0-1, 0.00 ERA).
Manager Bob Melvin confirmed that Brentwood native Paul Blackburn will get a second major league start on Thursday. The 23-year-old right-hander threw 6 innings, allowing one unearned run in his big league debut Saturday. … The A’s optioned Jesse Hahn (3-6, 5.30 ERA) prior to Sunday’s game. He allowed 15 hits and 16 runs (15 earned), lasting just 4 innings (33.75 ERA) over his last two starts. Zach Neal (0-0, 8.56 ERA) was re-called to replace Hahn. … Third baseman Matt Chapman (left knee) will start at third for the Double-A Stockton Ports Sunday. Barring setback he is expected to return to the A’s on Monday. He has not played with Oakland since an infection sidelined him following the June 18 win over the Yankees. … Marcus Semien (right wrist) played nine innings at shortstop with the Triple-A Nashville Sounds Saturday. Melvin said the shortstop could return to the club on its upcoming road trip beginning Thursday. He has not played since April 14. … The MLB All-Star rosters were announced mid-game with Yonder Alonso selected as the lone A’s representative.