The biggest reason behind Sean Manaea's early success

The biggest reason behind Sean Manaea's early success

Where would the A's be without Sean Manaea?

The tall, lanky 26-year-old delivered his fourth consecutive strong outing Sunday afternoon, as the A's salvaged the series finale in Seattle, 2-1.

Manaea allowed just one run and two hits in seven masterful innings. He has given up two runs or fewer in each of his first four starts, averaging seven innings per outing with a 1.63 ERA.

“I'm definitely in a good place,” Manaea told reporters after the game. “I've just got to keep working on being consistent like I am, and take that into my upcoming starts.”

We certainly saw flashes of Manaea's ability last year, but far too often, he would succumb to the big inning. This season, he has maintained a more positive outlook, even following home runs.

Four of the five runs Manaea has allowed this year have come via the long ball, including a solo shot by Taylor Motter Sunday in the fifth inning. But Manaea immediately recovered to retire the next eight Mariners he faced, preserving Oakland's 2-1 lead.

“Last year, it was kind of like a dark spot,” Manaea admitted. “Anything that would go bad, immediately terrible thoughts would pop in my head and keep getting me further and further down. There were times where I couldn't get out of it. Just having a positive mindset and how I am right now - solo home runs aren't going to kill you - that's kind of the mindset I have.”

“I don't know where we'd be without him at this point,” added A's manager Bob Melvin. “He saves the bullpen, has pitched great and won games for us. He's had a heck of an April for us, for sure.”

To Melvin's point, Oakland's other starting pitchers have combined for an astronomical ERA of 7.03, with no starts lasting even lasting six innings.

Manaea has embraced the roll of ace, and he's done it by pitching to contact, recording just 20 strikeouts through 27 2/3 innings, but only walking four.

“He's finding a way to pitch without a 95 mph fastball,” Melvin explained. “That means keeping some balls on the ground and trying to get some early pitch contact. You can't strike anybody out until you get to two strikes. He's learning how to pitch.”

“Throwing everything for strikes and just relying on the defense,” Manaea added. “Try to get early outs and early contact, and strikeouts when we needed them. That was the game plan today. I feel like I was locating my fastball inside and out, and keeping guys off balance.”

Manaea has now pitched seven or more innings while allowing two or fewer runs in three starts this season, tied for the most in Major League Baseball. He has given up two earned runs or fewer in six straight starts, dating back to last season.

Seriously, where would the A's be without Sean Manaea?

POLL: A's Memorable Moments -- Hernandez walk-off bunt vs Chapman catch over Gatorade jug

AP/NBC Sports Bay Area

POLL: A's Memorable Moments -- Hernandez walk-off bunt vs Chapman catch over Gatorade jug

PROGRAMMING NOTE: NBC Sports California is looking back at the A's 50 Memorable Moments since the franchise relocated to Oakland in 1968. Below are the next two moments you can vote on. Tune into A's Pregame Live tonight at 4:30pm to watch highlights of the two moments. After the A's and Rangers conclude, tune into A's Postgame Live to see which moment will move on to the next round!

1. Ramon Hernandez's walk-off bunt in 12th inning of Game 1 of 2003 ALDS (Two-time winner -- Defeated Josh Reddick's 'Spider-Man' catch against the Blue Jays in 2012)

Nobody in the entire stadium saw it coming. How could they? With two outs and the bases loaded in the bottom of the 12th inning of a 4-4 game, A's catcher Ramon Hernandez laid down a perfect bunt to beat the Red Sox in Game 1 of the 2003 American League Division Series.

“The element of surprise reigns supreme!” longtime A's announcer Bill King exclaimed. The walk-off bunt capped a thrilling comeback victory for Oakland, which tied the game in the bottom of the ninth on a two-out RBI single by Erubiel Durazo.

At 4 hours and 37 minutes, the game became the longest in Oakland's postseason history. The A's would also win Game 2, 5-1, but the Red Sox stormed back with three straight victories to take the series in five games.


2. Matt Chapman makes catch, jumps over Gatorade jug into A's dugout

It didn't take long to realize that Matt Chapman was special. As a rookie, Chapman made countless breathtaking plays at third base, none better than his incredible running catch and Gatorade jug leap.

With two outs and a runner on second in the 10th inning of a 5-5 game, Minnesota's Zack Granite sent a pop up into foul territory near the A's dugout. Chapman sprinted more than 100 feet from his position at third base to make the catch, and proceeded to jump right over two Gatorade jugs and into the dugout, sticking the landing.

Chapman also came up huge with the bat that afternoon, tying the game with a two-run double in the eighth inning. Yonder Alonso would eventually win it for Oakland with a solo home run in the 12th, and the A's walked off with a thrilling 6-5 victory.


A's use six-run ninth to beat Rangers, move back over .500

A's use six-run ninth to beat Rangers, move back over .500


ARLINGTON -- Marcus Semien hit a tiebreaking homer on the first pitch of the ninth inning and the surging Oakland Athletics went on to their third straight victory, 9-4 over the Texas Rangers on Monday night.

The Athletics (12-11) have won seven of eight, and have a winning record for the first time since they won their season opener before a three-game losing streak.

Semien's third homer of the season, off Kevin Jepsen (0-3), snapped a 3-all tie and ignited a six-run outburst. Matt Chapman had an RBI triple with two outs, then after a pitching change scored on a single by Mark Canha before Jake Smolinski hit a two-run triple.

Ryan Buchter (1-0), the fourth of five Oakland pitchers, retired the only two batters he faced - the last out of the eighth and the first out in the ninth.

The Rangers, who are 3-11 at home this season, tied the game in the fourth when Jurickson Profar drew a two-out walk from Trevor Cahill and Robinson Chirinos followed with his third homer of the season.

Khris Davis had a two-run double in the third to put Oakland up 2-0, giving him 21 RBIs this season. Chad Pinder's RBI single an inning later made it 3-1.

Rookie second baseman Isiah Kiner-Falefa, the Rangers' No. 9 hitter, doubled in the third for their first hit and scored on a wild pitch.

Both starting pitchers allowed three runs over five innings. Rangers lefty Matt Moore, who was pulled after giving up a leadoff single in the sixth, struck out two and walked two. Cahill, who threw seven scoreless innings in his only other start this season for the A's, had six strikeouts, two walks and the wild pitch that allowed a run.

Rangers: RHP Doug Fister (right hip strain) felt good a day after throwing a bullpen and is set to come off the disabled list to start the series finale Wednesday.

Rangers lefty Cole Hamels (1-3), trying to avoid four losses by the end of April for the first time in his career, has lost four consecutive home starts - including both this season. Right-hander Andrew Triggs, with a 1.02 ERA in four career appearances against Texas, starts for the A's in the middle game of the three-game series.