The postseason-hopeful Diamondbacks stumbled into the Oakland Coliseum Friday averaging 2.3 runs per game in May — far and away the lowest in the league. Sean Manaea came in with a 5.96 ERA in four previous starts this month.
In a battle of the non-moving object and the un-stopping force, Arizona (26-24) topped their month-long daily allotment of runs on a third-inning two-run double by John Ryan Murphy, whose .246 average entering the game was third-best among D’Backs starter. Manaea (L, 5-5, 3.34 ERA) was unable to make it through the fifth for the first time this season, departing with two down in the fourth.
The Oakland bullpen pushed its May inning total to 9 — in the A’s 23rd game of the month — tallying 5-1/3 one-run frames, but the Athletics (26-25) were never able to ascend from the hole dug by their ace, falling 7-1.
This story has been updated with quotes and post-game material from the A’s clubhouse at the Oakland Coliseum.
The normally even-keeled Manaea was visibly upset when assessing his effort, summing the night up succinctly:
“Leaving the ball up. Not throwing off-speed pitches for strikes. Just falling behind guys.”
Manager Bob Melvin, who was likely expecting a bounce-back performance from his starter facing a team that had been lost in the batter’s box for much of the season, added:
“There were a few more balls in the middle of the plate than we normally see out of him. They took advantage of it and a team that wasn’t swinging really well swung the bat pretty well tonight.”
Since earning American League Pitcher of the Month honors in April for his 4-2 record and 1.03 ERA, Manaea has been unable to get an out in the seventh in five May starts, something he did in all six April starts. The big lefty took another step back Friday, setting a season high with six runs allowed and matching a season high surrendering eight hits.
His command, which was the key to his early-season success, was spotty at best. Manaea fell into deep counts early and often eventually needing 83 pitches to get just eight outs. He also walked two one start after setting his season high in free passes with three May 19 in Toronto.
After falling behind 3-1, Manaea forced a 91-mph challenged fastball down the throat of the strike zone two batters into the game, and Nick Ahmed unloaded on it launching a solo homer (7) over the Rickey Henderson Field insignia in left-center.
“Falling behind guys and not really trusting my stuff right now. Just got to figure things out. … Things just got away from me and I couldn’t figure out how to get them back.”
Manaea got through the first without further damage then evaded a one-out double in the second to throw his only zero on the board.
In the third, things began to fall apart, starting with a leadoff walk of nine-hole hitter Jeff Mathis. A single and groundout later Murphy surpassed the D’Backs 2.3-run average driving a double off the wall in the left-center gap, just shy of the landing spot Ahmed found two innings prior.
The straw that finally broke the back of the camel that was Manaea’s start was a two-run triple by Paul Goldschmidt, who was batting .198 entering the at-bat. Arizona’s All-Star first baseman, a career .294 hitter, added a double and run scored in the ninth, pushing his average to .206 and giving him his first multi-hit game since April 26 when he was batting .279. Allowing the two-time NL MVP runner-up a Friday night awakening does not bode well for the A’s in a three-game weekend series.
Goldschmidt wasn’t the only Arizona hitter who enjoyed a lump-busting night. Four D’Backs recorded multi-hit games, and all but one, Chris Owings collected at least one.
Matt Olson was the only Athletic to post two knocks, though it was Mark Canha who was responsible for Oakland’s lone run, driving a line-drive solo homer (7) just over the wall in straight-away left in the third.
All told, the A’s picked up just five knocks and just four off southpaw starter Patrick Corbin (W, 5-1, 2.47 ERA), who struck out seven and walked one in his seven one-run innings.
Melvin said the plan against Corbin included a red alert regarding the All-Star’s slider, but it was too good:
“He was throwing strike one, then expanding with a slider. The approach today was, try to stay off the slider when he gets ahead. For a while, we did it pretty well … but he’s got a really good slider and it’s tough to layoff.”
The skipper credited the opposition, but acknowledged the fact that his offense has all but disappeared since the loss of home run- and RBI-leader Khris Davis, who was placed on the 10-day disabled list earlier this week with a groin strain:
“There’s probably a little bit of a KD-effect, he’s kinda that sledgehammer in the middle of the lineup and everybody kinda rallies around him and guys are putting more pressure on themselves. When you lose a big bat like that, certainly the offense is going to suffer a little bit.”
As for Manaea, the lefty who was so dominant in April said he has begun work on righting the ship, adding that all he needs is one good start to get things going in the right direction:
“That’s baseball. Just gotta figure out some things and keep grinding. Hopefully turn this thing around.”
Daniel Mengden gets the ball for the A’s-D’Backs Saturday matinee. In four May starts, Mengden (4-4, 3.30 ERA) has averaged one earned run in 6-1/3 innings — four earned runs, 24-2/3 innings (1.46 ERA) — going 2-1. He will lock horns with Clay Buchholz (0-0, 1.80 ERA), who has made just one start this season but is 1-2 with a 9.58 ERA in three start at the Oakland Coliseum.
Reliever Wilmer Font, whom the A’s designated for assignment Wednesday, was traded to the Rays Friday. Font, acquired via trade with the Dodgers on April 25, allowed 11 earned runs in 6-2/3 innings with the A’s and has given up 10 home runs in 17 innings between the Dodgers and A’s. In exchange for the 28-year-old right-hander, Oakland received 24-year-old right-handed reliever Peter Bayer. Bayer has allowed eight earned runs in 4.0 innings with Advanced-A Charlotte this season. … After getting the final four outs of Oakland’s 4-3 victory over the Mariners Thursday, Blake Treinen recorded his 11th save of the season (T-8th in MLB). Treinen’s six saves of four outs or more leads Major League Baseball — only San Diego’s Brad Hand (4) and Milwaukee’s Josh Hader (5) have recorded as many as four such saves. … Santiago Casilla departed the game with two outs and no one on in the eighth inning with was manager Bob Melvin later said was a shoulder strain. The skipper added that there is a “good chance he’ll be on the DL.”
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.