NEW YORK — Dealt another dose of injury bad news Friday, the A’s got to temporarily push those thoughts aside once Sean Manaea took the mound.
The big lefty shined in his first career outing at Yankee Stadium, matching Masahiro Tanaka pitch for pitch and spinning his best start of the season in a 4-1 A’s victory.
After he walked leadoff man Brett Gardner on four pitches in the first, it conjured up memories of his five-walk outing two starts ago at Seattle. But from that point on Manaea locked in, allowing just four hits over seven innings and striking out eight. Not a single Yankee advanced past second base against him.
“He was out there chucking,” A’s left fielder Khris Davis said. “He’s got that Chris Sale stuff where people are swinging and missing in the zone. It’s great to see that.”
The day began with news that Opening Night starter Kendall Graveman and fellow starter Jesse Hahn both are likely headed to the disabled list with shoulder and triceps strains, respectively. It continues the cycle of injury woes for the A’s, who have lost every starter except Andrew Triggs to at least one stint on the 10-day DL. With two-fifths of the rotation down for an unknown period of time, Manaea takes on an even more significant role.
“For a young guy we’ve leaned on him pretty hard since he’s gotten here, but now probably a little bit more so,” manager Bob Melvin said.
Yet no matter what is unfolding elsewhere on the pitching staff, the challenge for Manaea always stems from within. He’s talked often this season about the need to be mentally tougher and more aggressive attacking the strike zone. After the leadoff walk to Gardner, Manaea (3-3) said a switch flipped inside of him.
“I was thinking that these guys weren’t gonna hit me at all, and that I just needed to throw strikes and trust the defense,” he said. “I know I can get these guys out. To me it was a big mentality switch, and just believing in myself and trusting everything.”
Tanaka, who has disappointed this season to the tune of a 6.56 ERA entering Friday, put it together against Oakland and rang up a career-high 13 strikeouts without a single walk. But Manaea was more than up to the task, keeping New York off the board until the A’s scored twice in the eighth to snap a scoreless tie off former Athletic Tyler Clippard, who relieved Tanaka to start that inning.
“He was pitching with a lot of confidence, and that’s what I love to see,” A’s catcher Stephen Vogt said of Manaea. “He wants the ball, wanted to keep going out there. It was awesome.”