OAKLAND — Just over a month removed from Sean Manaea’s no hitter, the glimmering memory is growing fainter by the start for the Oakland Athletics’ left-hander.
In his first six starts of 2018, highlighted by his April 21 no-hit performance, Manaea allowed five runs combined. In Friday’s series-opening 7-1 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks — a team hitting a MLB-worst .219 –Manaea surrendered six runs in 3 2/3 innings.
“There were a few more balls in the middle of the plate than we normally see out of him,” manager Bob Melvin said. “They took advantage of it. A team that wasn’t swinging really well swung the bat pretty well off him tonight.”
The third-year starter has now let in at least four runs in five consecutive starts, swelling his ERA from 1.00 to 3.34 during that stretch.
Manaea couldn’t explain what changed after the calendar flipped.
“I’ve just got to figure out some things,” Manaea said. “Just keep grinding and hopefully turn this thing around.”
Manaea was pitching from behind almost immediately, serving up a solo home run to Nick Ahmed, the second batter of the game. Manaea pitched his way into trouble again in the third. With runners on second and third and one out, John Ryan Murphy barreled a two-run double off the State Farm sign that juts up from the wall in left-center field.
“I felt good,” Manaea said. “Things just got away from me and I couldn’t figure out how to get it back.”
Half an inning later, Mark Canha got the A’s on the board, sending a Patrick Corbin slider off the concrete steps beyond the left field wall for his seventh home run of the season.
Canha nearly delivered No. 8 in the eighth, but his sharply-hit drive hooked wide of the left-field foul pole. That was as close as the A’s got to tacking on any more runs.
“It probably had a little something to do with their pitcher tonight,” Melvin said of lack of offensive punch. “If you look at his numbers, he’s having a heck of a year.”
With his seven innings of one-run ball, Corbin dropped his ERA to 2.47. The ongoing absence of Khris Davis, who hit the 10-day disabled list with a strained right groin on Monday, didn’t help, either.
“There’s probably a little bit of a KD effect,” Melvin reasoned. “He’s kind of that sledge hammer in the middle of the lineup and everybody kind of rallies around him. I’d want to say guys are putting more pressure on themselves, but when you lose a big bat like that, certainly your offense is going to suffer a little bit.”
The lead ballooned to 6-1 in the fourth, as Manaea surrendered back-to-back singles to lead off the frame, and then allowed a run-scoring single by Ahmed and a two-run triple by Paul Goldschmidt, who snuck a soft liner past a diving Chad Pinder on Manaea’s final pitch of the evening.
The A’s dodged an injury scare in the sixth when Jed Lowrie was slow to get up after rolling over on his left wrist on a failed attempt to snare ground-ball single off the bat of David Peralta. Melvin and a trainer exited the dugout to check on his second baseman, who leads the A’s in nearly every major offensive category, including OPS, slugging percentage, OBP, average, doubles and hits. Lowrie not only remained in the game but singled in the bottom half of the inning.
Santiago Casilla was not as lucky in the eighth. The veteran reliever waggled his right arm after a 2-1 offering to Ahmed with two outs. Casilla quickly walked off the mound with a trainer. Melvin said the veteran, who’s dealing with a shoulder strain that also hampered him in spring training, is likely headed to the DL.