Posting an offensive outburst the likes of which they have rarely experienced this season, though, they enjoyed a one-sided 9-1 win Tuesday night.
Starter Sean Manaea led the way for the hometown nine, tossing seven one-run innings. His teammates offered their first-year hurler support they were unable to give Andrew Triggs one day prior, drumming opposing pitcher Danny Salazar to the tune of eight hits and six runs in 4 innings.
With the win, the A’s (54-72) notched their first victory over the American League Central-leading Indians (72-52) in five attempts.
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Manaea (W, 5-8, 4.53 ERA) has not allowed more than three runs in a home start since May 21, and said that this performance felt the best of any this season:
“Today felt a lot better than my past — pretty much every single start. Everything about today was just free and easy. … It all came together today.”
His offense responded immediately to a perfect first frame, jumping all over Salazar (L, 11-5, 3.90 ERA), who gave them little to think about.
Cleveland’s starter opened his evening with 10 consecutive fastballs, all but one in the strike zone. Following singles from Jake Smolinski and Danny Valencia, Khris Davis leaned into the fourth heater he saw launching it into the seats beyond the out-of-town scoreboard in right field for a three-run home run (33). Salazar responded by mixing in his off-speed pitches, limiting the damage to the Davis blast despite facing eight A’s in the inning.
But the damage was sufficient for the “free-and-easy” Manaea, who said it allowed him to remain aggressive:
“(Getting an early lead) is huge. The offense did a really amazing job today. Having that three-run lead in the first, going out into the second, I can kind of — not relax, just go out and attack.”
Manaea did not face adversity until the third, when a momentary lapse in command led to the Indians first two base runners. Using a double-play grounder and strikeout of former Athletic Rajai Davis, the “Throwin’ Samoan” was able to work around the free bases, one of which coming to the inning’s lead-off hitter, Brandon Guyer. He did not face so much as another three-ball count.
The Indians did not record a hit until Mike Napoli smoked a two-out liner off the wall near the right-field foul pole in the fourth. With a nimble play and perfect throw from the right-field corner, Valencia cut down the Cleveland designated hitter attempting to stretch it into a double.
Manager Bob Melvin said that Valencia’s impressive defense is the product of tremendous labor:
“He’s working hard out there. Every day, you see him out there taking early balls — balls off the bat — part of what outfielders have to do. He’s taking balls off the wall, and making throws to second base. … Hard work pays off.”
Manaea finished his outing retiring the final six batters he faced, after a solo home run (4) from Chris Gimenez for Cleveland’s only run leading off the sixth. Along with just five base runners allowed — three hits and two walks — the 24-year-old racked up eight strikeouts, giving him 100 on his season and career.
The skipper said that his ability to locate the fastball is the key factor:
“(He was) back to good fastball command, which is good for him. The last couple games he has battled through without great command of his fastball. Once he’s able to throw his fastball to both sides of the plate, now it sets up his changeup.”
Along with advancing his stellar home pitching — now 5-3 with a 3.26 ERA at home — Manaea improved to 5-4 when receiving three or more runs of support.
The support came early and often for the Oakland starter, who received two additional runs in the third, and another in the fifth. Along with his game-deciding swing, Davis contributed a double and walk, scoring two runs. Valencia added a pair of hits and runs scored.
A trio of rookie infielders joined their hurler, reaching career milestones. With a 3-for-4 night, third baseman Ryon Healy has now hit safely in 10 straight — going 16-for-38 (.421) during the hit streak — while recently called-up shortstop Chad Pinder drove in the first run of his now four-game career.
Catcher Bruce Maxwell joined the youngster party in the eighth, driving in the first two RBIs of his career with an opposite-field double.