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Manaea locks down White Sox, A’s bounce back toward Wild Card

The A’s entered this seven-game homestand with reason to believe their best baseball has yet to come. Though they couldn’t get the job done against the White Sox to open the series, Oakland bounced back with a win Wednesday and again on Thursday afternoon, when a sharp Sean Manaea set the tone to stay within striking distance of postseason play with a 3-1 win.

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After being swept at Toronto in brutal losses, and dropping the opener to Chicago, the A’s (75-64) had starters Frankie Montas and then Manaea (W, 9-9, 3.79 ERA) throw seven full to pick up two straight wins.

The A’s bullpen is 2-7 with seven blown saves and a 7.11 ERA over their last 16 games. After an off day Monday, Andrew Chafin pitched the final two scoreless innings in Wednesday’s 5-1 win and allowed two hits, one being rookie Romy Gonzalez’s first major league hit. Thursday, Sergio Romo pitched a clean eighth and Chafin picked up his third save of the season. 

Chafin threw 22 pitches in two innings Wednesday and came back out for the ninth in Thursday’s win. Melvin explained the closing role of Chafin:

“It is probably not what he envisioned when he came here, having to close some games but we have to do the best we can at a particular time so that is what he will do right now… I don’t think anything bothers him too much in what inning he pitches in, he loves to pitch.”

The final month of the season has arrived, and every A’s loss chips away at dreams of reaching the postseason. After Monday night, Oakland at seven games back was facing their largest deficit in the West since 2019. Now, after two straight wins, the A’s are tied for second with the Mariners at 5-1/2 games behind Houston. It will be a dogfight every single day for the next 22 games. 

Seattle has shocked all of baseball, working their way back to playoff contenders. The A’s will play the Mariners seven more times and the Astros six more times. It seems likely to come down to the final game of the season, Oct. 3 in Houston.

Bob Melvin made it known the A’s have yet to play their best baseball:

“This is a big series for us. Coming off a really tough one in Toronto and losing the first game of this series, we know we have to win a lot of series coming down the stretch. This looked to be a really difficult one and to be able to come back after the first loss and win two games kinda shows you what this team is made of. It doesn’t surprise me. I think everybody here expects to get on a little bit of a roll here and hopefully these two wins against them catapult us.”

Manaea did pretty much exactly what Montas did the night prior. Manaea allowed one run on five hits, striking out nine and walking a batter. His 101 pitches enabled another much-needed light day for the bullpen. Melvin said:

“It is huge, especially against those guys. Those guys [White Sox] are a playoff team. So anytime you get a team like that, it’s a good indication of how we stack up so playing against these guys and getting these last two wins was huge and I definitely think a big momentum push for us.”

When the A’s starters go deep, they win games. After almost four days off for the relievers, they should should feel rejuvenated and ready to pitch their best baseball — exactly when it is needed most. 

Up Next

The A’s and Khris Davis get to play Texas, the team that traded for him to start the 2021 season and then designated him for assignment. The A’s picked him up, and Davis bashed his way through Triple-A to work his way back to the majors. He gets to show his former team what they are missing on Friday when the A’s host a three-game series against the Rangers. 

Notes

Chris Bassitt threw 25 pitches on flat ground prior to Thursday’s game and felt great after. His progression has been very quick and the possibility of him pitching in a regular game are much higher than last week when he first addressed the media. … Starling Marte leads the majors in stolen bases and is three shy of passing his career best (47 in 2016). Marte was initially caught stealing Thursday but after review the call was overturned. Marte now stands 22-for-22 as an Oakland Athletic. … Andrew Chafin may be the A’s new closer and ranks second among MLB relievers when it comes to opponents OPS (.468) is fourth in OBP (.224) and his ERA is now 1.64.

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