Nathan Eovaldi chills A’s bats with no-no stuff

Last month, Athletics starting pitcher Sean Manaea celebrated his first career no-hitter against the Boston Red Sox.

Not six weeks later, Manaea and the A’s nearly found themselves on the other side in a 6-0 clampdown Wednesday night by Nathan Eovaldi and the Tampa Bay Rays.

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

Tossing six innings before the no-hitter was broken up in the seventh, Rays starting pitcher Eovaldi (W, 1-0, 0.00 ERA) relinquished just one walk — to Matt Chapman in the first, on four pitches — in his first start in nearly two years.

Freshly activated off of the 60-day disabled list, Wednesday marked Eovaldi’s first major league appearance since August 10, 2016.

With Eovaldi dealing, the A’s bats were colder than the breeze that ripped through Rickey Henderson Field most of the night. Though only four of the 27 outs came via strikeouts, the A’s hit grounded out into the Tampa Bay infield nine times while flying out seven.

Melvin tried to put the lack of offensive production into perspective after the game:

“We’re struggling. It gets contagious and we’re going through a bad spell right now. But you’re never as bad as when it seems like you’re at your worst and you’re never at your best when things are going great.”

Eovaldi, who was at his best, kept his no-no intact through six innings, when Rays manager Kevin Cash relieved him — and his Tommy John-repaired right elbow — at 70 pitches.

Wilmer Font got Chapman to line out before Jed Lowrie sent a full-count ground ball up the middle, trotting to first having spoiled at least part of the night for the visiting Rays.

On the other side of the mound, Manaea watched Eovaldi find a groove, while the “Throwin’ Samoan” struggled mightily. Unable to make it to the sixth, Manaea gave up four earned runs in only five innings, including a three-run homer in the third to Rays outfielder Rob Refsnyder.

Manaea took bulk of the blame when asked about Refsnyder’s home run:

“It was  3-1 and I just served it up to [Refsnyder]. I shouldn’t even be in a situation like that. Its definitely on me.”

Manaea (L, 5-6, 3.60 ERA) made his fair share of mistakes, but the three-year veteran received not an ounce of help from his infield, who committed three of their four errors with Manaea on the bump.

Two of the errors were credited to shortstop Chad Pinder. Pinder stepped into the shortstop role after Marcus Semien was placed on the paternity list following the birth of his son.

Previous to Wednesday night, Pinder hadn’t seen time at shortstop since spring training and before that a 2017 minor league stint. Even with that the 28-year-old utility player chose not to use rust as an excuse for his poor play:

“My job is to hold down the fort while [Semien] is gone and tonight I just wasn’t there. Shaking off the rust and not playing since spring training, thats not an excuse at all… Thats 100-percent on me and I got to do better than that.”

After being yanked before the start of the sixth inning, Manaea took his seat on the A’s bench as the losing pitcher in what looked to be a no-hitter, until Lowrie’s disruption.

After Manaea, the pitching struggles continued for Oakland. In the top of the eighth, A’s relief pitcher Daniel Coulombe gave up a two-run homer to Rays outfielder Johnny Field.

For the A’s, Lowrie’s hit in the seventh would be end up as their only one. The loss also comes as Oakland’s third consecutive at the hands of Tampa Bay. Closing the four-game series on Thursday, the A’s will look to avoid a four game sweep.