OAKLAND – Sean Manaea provided the early buzz Friday night.
The rest of the excitement came later, courtesy of his teammates.
The A’s erased a two-run deficit in the eighth, then Yonder Alonso hit a walk-off three-run homer off Pat Neshek to give the A’s a 7-4 victory over the Houston Astros.
It was Alonso’s first homer as an Athletic and the first walk-off shot of his career.
That provided a climactic ending to a night that began with the hype of Manaea, the A’s top pitching prospect, making his major league debut. The 6-foot-5 left-hander went five-plus innings, fighting control issues and getting charged with four runs but showing a glimpse of the promise that makes him one of the game’s top prospects. He left to a standing ovation in the sixth.
The A’s trailed 4-2 in the eighth before Marcus Semien homered and Billy Burns used his speed to get into position to score the tying run. The win helped erase memories of the A’s losing five of their final six on their recently completed road trip.
Starting pitching report
Manaea’s line took a beating after he left the game when the Astros scored two runs with Sean Doolittle on the mound. All things considered, the 24-year-old lefty acquitted himself pretty well in his big league debut. He battled control issues – walking four and hitting a batter - but pitched around them through five-plus innings. Evan Gattis hit a 1-1 fastball for a homer in the second, but that was it off Manaea until the sixth. In that inning, he hit George Springer, walked Carlos Correa and then gave up Gattis’ game-tying single before departing.
Doolittle gave up Tyler White’s RBI single and Marwin Gonzalez’s RBI double to give Houston a 4-2 lead. Doolittle has now allowed four of five inherited runners to score on the season.
At the plate
Down 4-2 in the eighth, the A’s rallied off Astros reliever Ken Giles, who was a key offseason addition but has struggled so far for Houston. Marcus Semien greeted him with a home run to left – Semien’s team-high sixth homer – to make it a one-run game. Then Burns singled, stole second and motored to third when Erik Kratz’s throw went into center. He scored the tying run on Jed Lowrie’s sacrifice fly. Coco Crisp had given the A’s a 2-1 lead in the second when he turned on an 0-1 pitch from Mike Fiers and hit a two-run shot over the right field wall, his third homer of the season. Crisp would have rather avoided his next moment in the spotlight. He singled to lead off the bottom of the fifth, and promptly got picked off on a move that hardly would qualify as Fiers’ best.
One of the A’s hardest hit balls all night led to a scary moment. Burns hacked away at a high fastball and lashed a foul liner that nailed third base coach Ron Washington in the right leg. Washington fell to the ground and was tended to by A’s head athletic trainer Nick Paparesta before rising to his feet and staying in the game, accompanied by a hearty ovation from the home fans.
In the field
After using his legs to help the A’s tie it in the eighth, Burns provided a huge play with his arm in the ninth. Carlos Gomez led the inning off with a shot that caromed off the left field wall. Burns tracked the ball down from center and threw to third to nail Gomez, trying to stretch a double into a triple.
It figured that the Astros would try to run on Manaea, who struggled some with his pickoff move in the spring. But Stephen Vogt helped his pitcher out in the first, throwing a strike to nail George Springer trying to steal second. Manaea had Carlos Correa picked off in the fourth as he broke for second, but first baseman Yonder Alonso’s throw to second was high and Correa was safe. That didn’t end up costing Oakland. And Alonso redeemed himself defensively in the seventh with a pretty sliding catch of Jose Altuve’s foul pop.
The announced turnout was 20,159.
Jesse Hahn (0-0, 0.00) makes his A’s season debut Saturday after being recalled from Triple-A Nashville. He’ll oppose right-hander Chris Devenski (0-0, 0.66), with first pitch at 1:05 p.m.