Athletics lefty regrets homer balls in loss to Angels
By Fabian Ardaya
ANAHEIM -- Sean Manaea thought he had everything working on Tuesday night -- fastball, changeup, even a slider here and there -- until two pitches undid yet another solid performance.
The Athletics' left-hander left a pair of fastballs over the heart of the plate in the fifth and sixth innings and watched as the Angels' Jett Bandy and Jefry Marte took advantage, driving them well over the fence in Oakland's 5-4 loss.
Manaea, who had allowed three runs or fewer in six of his last seven starts entering Tuesday night, started off the night splendidly. He said he felt he had just about everything going, and it showed. He retired 12 of the first 14 batters, including four strikeouts.
"I was getting ahead with my changeup and fastball," Manaea said. "The slider was there at times, and I was just able to throw my changeup for strikes and get a lot of swings-and-misses on it."
Athletics manager Bob Melvin agreed, seeing flashes of the pitcher who had posted a 3.13 ERA over the past two months after opening with a 7.03 mark through his first six career outings.
"I liked where he was throwing the ball," Melvin said. "He had good life, good velocity and a good changeup today."
Manaea finished his night with five runs allowed (four earned) in 5 2/3 innings. He worked well through the fourth, only to see his command begin to evade him.
That's where the progression comes in. Manaea had done well to go deeper into outings of late, including a career-best eight-inning performance on July 22 against Tampa Bay. But when things began unraveling Tuesday, it did so quickly.
With a man on in the fifth and a 2-0 lead, Manaea just missed his spot with a 92.8-mph fastball to Bandy. Trying to go inside, the ball instead floated out over the heart of the plate and the Angels catcher crushed it into the opposing bullpen to tie the ballgame. After allowing another runner into scoring position, it appeared Manaea had dodged his way out of trouble.
He then led off the sixth with a five-pitch walk to Mike Trout, and saw as A's shortstop Marcus Semien bobbled a routine double-play ball and put another man on. Two pitches later, Marte took a 92.6-mph fastball a Statcast-projected 428 feet into the left-field bullpen to give his club a commanding 5-2 lead and effectively spoil Manaea's promising outing.
"I should've made better pitches to Marte," Manaea said. "We tried to go in, and I just threw it right down the middle. It was completely my fault. Marcus is going to get that [ball] next time and it's just one of those things that happens and we've got to move on from that."
Melvin said he still sees steps to build with his young pitcher.
"Early in the game, [Sean] looked really good, like we'd seen him at his best," he said. "It just ended up being two pitches."
Fabian Ardaya is a reporter for MLB.com based in Anaheim. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.