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?

A's notes: Mark Canha hits career-high 17th homer in win vs. Twins

A's notes: Mark Canha hits career-high 17th homer in win vs. Twins

OAKLAND — Mark Canha blasted a pinch-hit two-run home run to tie the game in the sixth inning Friday night. It was his 17th homer of the season, a new career high.

“That's kind of cool,” Canha said after the A's walked off the Twins in the 10th inning. “To know that you don't have a ceiling of 16, it's just kind of cool for me. I love home runs. My favorite part about the game is hitting home runs. Hopefully I can get to 20. That's kind of been a goal for me the past couple months.”

“[He's meant] a lot,” added manager Bob Melvin. “He plays multiple positions, knows how to come off the bench. ... He's ready for every situation. He's a lefty killer. ... He's a real weapon for us later on in the game and has been really for a few years now.”

Canha has hit 13 of his 17 home runs against left-handed pitchers, second most in the American League behind the Rangers' Joey Gallo.

--- The A’s scored seven or more runs in their eighth straight home game, setting a record for the longest streak in franchise history.

--- Blake Treinen leads MLB pitchers with a 0.83 ERA. He has allowed seven earned runs the entire season. Treinen has not allowed a hit in his last 13 1/3 innings, the second-longest streak in Oakland history.

--- Liam Hendriks has thrown seven straight scoreless first innings as an “opener.” He lowered his ERA to 2.35 in his seven starts this season.

--- Matt Chapman set an Oakland record with his league-leading 25th double since the All-Star break. Chapman also leads the majors with 41 extra-base hits since the Midsummer Classic.

--- Khris Davis set a career high with his 44th and 45th home runs of the season, fourth most in Oakland history and sixth most in A's history. This was his 22nd career multi-homer game, and his seventh this season.

--- Oakland starting pitchers have a streak of 35 consecutive games of seven innings or fewer. A's starters have pitched 798 innings this season. The fewest in a non-strike season in A's history is 858 2/3 in 1997.

--- The A’s have won eight of their last nine games against the Twins, and 17 of their last 20 at the Coliseum.

--- Oakland improved to 30-13 (.698 winning percentage) in one-run games, which is the best record in MLB. The A's record for winning percentage in one-run games is .698 (30-13) in 1928.

--- The A's are 38-19 since the All-Star break, which is the best record in the majors.

A's slugger Khris Davis stakes AL MVP claim with two homers vs. Twins

A's slugger Khris Davis stakes AL MVP claim with two homers vs. Twins

OAKLAND — Khris Davis probably isn't going to win the AL MVP award. Heck, he might not even finish in the top five. But after Friday night's performance, it became even more clear that there is no one in baseball more valuable to their team than the A's designated hitter.

Davis hit two more home runs, including a walk-off blast in the 10th inning, which sent the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum into a frenzy, followed immediately by boisterous chants of “MVP.”

“I was one of those (chanting),” A's manager Bob Melvin joked. “You look at his numbers and what he's meant to this team, he definitely needs to be in the conversation.”

“What do you say?" asked outfielder Mark Canha. "I'm at a loss for words. He does things that just leave you speechless. It's crazy.”

“I can't explain (the feeling),” Davis said. “There's not a better feeling in the world.”

Davis set a new career high with his 44th and 45th home runs of the season, four more than anyone else in MLB. His 119 RBI are also a career high and rank second in baseball, five behind Boston's J.D. Martinez.

“It's one-of-a-kind power,” Melvin marveled. “He's so strong. He uses his lower half well, but sometimes he loses his lower half and just kind of flicks it, and that means his hands and forearms are pretty strong. He keeps himself back just enough to drive it.”

“I thought it was a double, just the ball off my bat initially,” Davis said of his game-winning home run. “I was thinking, 'Get on second.' And then it just kept carrying, which is even better.”

Davis will likely finish behind Martinez and Mookie Betts of the Red Sox, Cleveland's Jose Ramirez, Houston's Alex Bregman, and Mike Trout of the Angels in the MVP voting. They are all admittedly terrific players, but are any of them truly as valuable to their team as Davis is to the A's?

Take Davis out of Oakland's lineup and it's a completely different team. Sure, Oakland has other good hitters. But Davis affects the way opposing pitchers approach the entire lineup. He is a constant in the back of their mind, lurking just beneath the surface.

“He's obviously awesome for us on the field,” Canha said. “He's an awesome teammate. We love the heck out of him.”

“It's pretty dramatic how he started the game and ended the game,” Melvin added. “He's as good a power hitter as anybody in the game.”

Davis' 45 home runs are already the fourth most in Oakland single-season history. He is trying to become the first A's player to lead MLB in homers since Mark McGwire in 1996.

“It would be a nice achievement,” Davis acknowledged. “But first and foremost, I want to get deep in the playoffs. That means a lot more.”