Manaea’s gem goes unrewarded, A’s fall to Angels

After an 11-inning, four-hour marathon Thursday it was like the Athletics and Angels were running on fatigued early-season legs Friday.

That is one interpretation of Los Angeles’ 2-1 win at the Oakland Coliseum. Another has more to do with the work of starters Sean Manaea and Tyler Skaggs.

Manaea (L, 0-1, 1.17 ERA, 0.522 WHIP) posted the best start of his career, twirling 7-2/3 innings of four-hit, one-run ball, issuing no free passes in the losing effort. Skaggs (W, 1-0, 0.00 ERA, 0.474 WHIP) by no means had the better line — or the better stuff. What did he have was Kole Calhoun‘s glove, Martín Maldonado‘s arm and an angry Mike Trout‘s bat. And the win.

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

Eight runners left on base, including a pair in the ninth, proved too much for the A’s (1-1) who fell one hit shy of second walkoff win in as many days against the rival Angels (1-1).

Manager Bob Melvin said Manaea did not want to come out when he did, with two outs and a runner on in the eighth, but his 95 pitches were enough, especially “against a team like that, a lineup like that”:

“Looked like there was a lot of life in his arm. … Seven-and-two-thirds his first time out, seven strikeouts and no walks, that’s pretty good.”

Manaea told SFBay prior to the season that his focus this offseason was on consistency, repeating his delivery. If start number one is the preview to his 2018 it is safe to say he has accomplished that feat.

The third-year southpaw pounded his locations with a 90- to 93-mph fastball all night, mixing in an equally consistent changeup and the occasional darting slider — perhaps the best complete repertoire he has featured in his big league career. Manaea was happy with his fastball command and ability to move the changeup in and out, saying that was the game plan:

“It’s huge, taking that momentum into my next start and having that good feeling, those good thoughts.”

While he can leave with positivity flowing, he cannot leave with his first “W” of 2018 all because the damage he sustained early.

Trout, entering the game a career .304 hitter with 25 homers against the A’s, went 0-for-6 with a strikeout in Thursday’s season opener. He wasted no time righting the wrongs of his worst game as a major leaguer, launching a solo homer (1) down the left-field line.

The easy out too often used is to say the pitcher “made one mistake, and it hurt him.” That was not the case this time. Manaea’s one run allowed was not the product of poor execution, rather Trout beating a good pitch, the intended pitch — a 3-2 changeup near the bottom of the zone, to be exact.

Said the starter:

“It had conviction in it, I thought it was the right pitch. But, thinking back on it, that’s where Trout gets his power from is down. … after looking at it, that’s pretty much right where he wants it. Next time I face him I won’t be making that pitch again.”

Among his shortcomings prior to Friday, Manaea has, at times, allowed lapses in concentration to snowball. That was not the case this time around.

After serving up Trout’s first homer of the year, the Oakland starter allowed a single to Justin Upton, but ended the first coaxing a double play from Albert Pujols. He then retired 21 of the next 23 he faced before departing down 1-0 with two outs in the eighth.

Matthew Joyce , who began the game on the bench before being used as a pinch-hitter in the eighth, got a front-row seat to the show put on by his starter, calling Manaea’s ability to keep a tough lineup under wraps “phenomenal.”

But Manaea’s offense did little against Skaggs. What they were able to do may have been enough if not for a pair of glittering defensive gems, both coming in potentially pivotal situations.

First, a fully extended diving snag by Calhoun of a Marcus Semien liner leading off the sixth. Not that it would have unfolded the same way but Jed Lowrie did add his first and only knock of the night two batters later. The other, a product of poor situational awareness just as much as solid defense, Jonathan Lucroy was picked off at first, after being hit by a pitch, by the American League’s 2017 Gold Glove-winning catcher Maldonado to end the seventh.

The Angels added one run of insurance, which proved to be the game-winner, in the ninth on an Upton single misplayed by Joyce in left, scooting by the veteran and allowing Trout to scamper home from first.

Melvin said that on colder nights — it was 65 degrees when the game ended — the ball can skip off the grass instead of bouncing. Joyce, though, had a better understanding. He admitted that he cannot let the ball get passed him in that situation, but said Upton just hit it harder than it appeared off the bat:

“Off the bat, it was low enough to the point where I just thought it was going to be a routine one-hop. When it passed Semien, it hit another gear. I got caught in between … and as soon as you get caught in between on a ball like that it’s tough to recover.”

Oakland had one last bullet in the chamber, getting the first two on the bottom of the ninth against the closer Blake Parker (S, 1, 9.00 ERA, 3.000 WHIP). But it proved to be a dud as the A’s got just a two-out RBI single from Lucroy, leaving the tying and winning runs on the corners when Joyce grounded out to second.

The skipper said he continues to be pleased by the fight his clubs shows night in and night out:

“(We) continue to battle. Early on, we didn’t do much off Skaggs, he did really well against us. … We felt good about the ninth inning.”

On Deck

Oakland and Los Angeles renew the rivalry once again in an afternoon tilt Saturday. Daniel Mengden (3-2, 3.14 ERA, 1.047 WHIP last season) gets his first start of the new season after closing 2017 with a 3-1 record and 1.54 ERA in September. He will face Matt Shoemaker (6-3, 4.52 ERA, 1.300 WHIP last season), who brings a 3.50 ERA in 12 career games against the A’s.

Notes

The A’s celebrated the franchise’s 50th anniversary in Oakland prior to the game, presenting the 50 members of the 50th Anniversary Team on the field in a ceremony prior to first pitch. … Emilio Pagán (0-0, 9.00 ERA, 2.000 WHIP) was tagged with the first run allowed by the bullpenthis season, letting one run cross in the ninth. As a unit, the Oakland bullpen has worked 7-1/3 innings through the team’s first two games. Manager Bob Melvin said he was impressed with the first-year Athletic’s pitch quality, but added that he needs to do a better job of locating:

“He had some life in his arm. … Looked like his breaking ball, as the inning went along, got a little bit better. But, with a good team like that and the middle of the order up, you’ve got to locate.”

Yusmeiro Petit made his second appearance of the young season, getting the only man he faced to end the eighth.


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.