OAKLAND -- Through his first three starts, Sean Manaea owned an 11.37 ERA, a stretch capped by a loss to the Red Sox where he surrendered eight runs in 2 2/3 innings. It was, as the rookie admitted, a turbulent ascension into the Majors.
But as Manaea stood in front of his locker on Wednesday after earning his second win of the season in a 5-1 victory over the Twins, he called those outings a beneficial experience for him. They provided an opportunity for him to learn and, ultimately, grow.
"Those first couple starts this season, I wasn't comfortable at all," Manaea said. "As the season's gone on, you realize it's just baseball. There's just more people in the stands. The hitters are better, but I can still get them out with the stuff I have. I've come to learn that my stuff is good."
It certainly was on Wednesday.
Manaea struck out a career-high eight batters while displaying more confidence in both his changeup and slider, which he has struggled to control at times this year. After allowing five baserunners to reach in the first three innings, Manaea set down eight straight Twins, including four by way of the strikeout.
"Today was the first time I was actually able to throw my slider for a strike and get it to do what I wanted," Manaea said. "It had some depth and some movement on it."
The left-hander encountered trouble in the sixth, walking two batters and loading the bases, but he responded by getting Eduardo Escobar to hit a sacrifice fly and then striking out Max Kepler and Juan Centeno -- his final strikeout coming on that slider.
"I felt like I was kind of being lazy," Manaea said. "I gathered myself and told myself, 'Bear down and get this guy. You're not going to let this guy score.'"
Added manager Bob Melvin: "It always appears like nothing bothers him. He's been in a few of those situations before where I've had to go get him. Today, he worked it out, which was great."
Josh Phegley, who caught Manaea for the first time, said the pair found a rhythm early, noting that he could see Manaea "taking a breath" between each pitch and remaining calm even when trouble arose in the sixth.
"I don't think he shook me off one time," Phegley said. "I made him shake a couple times just to keep the hitters off balance, but I don't remember him shaking me once. He trusted what I was calling, and I think that takes the pressure of him as far as thinking-wise."
Wednesday marked the second time in four starts that Manaea has allowed just one run. Melvin remarked Manaea continues to become more comfortable with each start, even saying that, for now, Manaea has solidified his spot in the rotation.
Manaea said that as the season progresses, his comfort level is following suit.
"A lot more," Manaea said. "Those first couple 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 have to go out and have that dominant mindset like nobody is going to get a hit off me."
Mark Chiarelli is a reporter for MLB.com based in Oakland. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.