OAKLAND — The afternoon almost unraveled for Sean Manaea in the sixth inning of the Oakland Athletics 5-1 win over the Minnesota Twins on Wednesday.
With the A’s holding a 4-0 advantage, the rookie left-hander issued a walk to Brian Dozier, gave up a base hit to Trevor Plouffe and then handed out another free pass to Byung Ho Park to load the bases.
Instead of coming undone, Manaea induced a sacrifice fly off the bat of Eduardo Escobar and then punched out Max Kepler and Juan Centeno back-to-back to limit the damage to a single run.
For Manaea, the key to his escape was pretending he was back in the minor leagues.
“Those first couple of starts I was just trying to take everything in and experience everything. Right now, it’s like I’m here and it’s my job. I’ve got to go out and have a dominant mindset like no one’s going to get a hit off me,” Manaea said. “It just kind of what I felt last year in Double-A and what I was feeling in Triple-A [this year]. Having that mindset, it’s been really good for me.”
Manaea struck out eight Twins — his highest total in 7 starts in the bigs — and allowed one run as he scattered five hits and three walks across six frames.
“That’s probably the best he’s pitched for us,” said manager Bob Melvin afterward. “He’s had some good outings, but other than the last inning when it was walk, base hit, walk, he really had it under control.”
As Manaea continues to settle into his new digs, Billy Butler is starting to earn at least a share of his hefty $11.7 million salary. After an ice-cold start to the season, Butler has a .298 average in his last 15 games.
Against the Twins, Butler went 2-for-3 with a run and an RBI. In the second, the right-handed hitter collected a leadoff double and even raced to third base on a wild pitch — as he continues his bid to steal more playing time from Yonder Alonso at first base.
“Speed kills,” Melvin joked as a smile snuck across his face.
“He told me he thought it got a little farther away from the catcher — from his angle — and he wants to make sure he’s safe,” Melvin said. “But it was a head’s up play. He got a good jump and got us a run.”