A's Sean Manaea can't pinpoint reason behind lack of extended outings

A's Sean Manaea can't pinpoint reason behind lack of extended outings

The A’s got off to a bumpy start as they began their first road trip to Seattle with a 5-3 loss to the Mariners on Friday night. 

Many things didn’t work in the A’s favor from defensive errors and lack of offensive production. But for starter Sean Manaea, he once again could not get beyond the third inning threshold without essentially falling apart. 

Manaea was cruising until the fourth inning when he gave up a two-run double to Mariners infielder Kyle Seager, who had Manaea figured out. And it was downhill from there. 

In 4 1/3 innings, Manaea gave up six hits, three earned runs, two unearned runs while striking out four. 

“Pretty bad outing,” Manaea told reporters in the postgame interview. “I didn’t really know what happened just kind of, I don’t know. It was good for the first two or three innings or whatever, then I just kind of fell off, I don’t really know how to explain it -- just happened I guess.”

Manaea appeared to be singing the same tune from his previous outing against the Los Angeles Angels. 

In 4 2/3 innings on July 25, he gave up five hits, four earned runs and struck out three.

So what went wrong against the Mariners? Manaea wasn’t sure what the exact problem was but he might have an idea. 

“I don’t really know what to pinpoint, I think it’s just coming down to me executing pitches and I haven’t been doing that,” Manaea said. “I think arm strength is there, and it’s just me executing pitches and I haven’t done that.”

Earlier in the broadcast, NBC Sports California’s Glen Kuiper referred to Manaea’s slider as looking rather “snappy,” which, up until the third inning, looked like it was executed beautifully. He had been working on the pitch, adding it to his repertoire since spring training in Arizona, and was looking forward to using it.

Heading into the Friday night matchup, Manaea was throwing his fastball just 43.6 percent of the time, which is a rarity among pitchers, but there was one positive take away from it all. His velocity ticked up slightly. 

“For sure,” Manaea said. “Having that velo -- don’t even know what it was, but a couple people told me that it was up just a little bit more, and that’s encouraging. I’ll just keep building off that.”

Manaea wasn’t alone in the defeat, however. Errors by Matt Chapman and J.B. Wendelken, and lack of offensive production made it clear there is a lot that needs to be worked on. 

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“We just need to work out a couple kinks,” Manaea said. 

“Just a bad couple games,” Manaea added. “That stuff happens. It is what it is, but I think we’ll come back tomorrow and get it right.”

How softball player Paige Halstead fared vs. Frankie Montas in live BP

How softball player Paige Halstead fared vs. Frankie Montas in live BP

A’s starter Frankie Montas was an absolute workhorse during the MLB hiatus. He lifted a considerable amount of weight, threw bullpens and simulated games. He also had to face Paige Halstead for a batting practice session.

Halstead, whose brother Ryan plays in the Giants organization, is used to male competition. She practices with Ryan quite a bit, but her résumé isn’t something to be ignored. 

A 2019 graduate of UCLA, and workhorse herself, Halstead also was a member of Team USA for three summers where she medaled multiple times. She also will be competing in a newly formed professional softball league, Athletes Unlimited, that begins later in August. 

Halstead had never seen Montas throw before. She had seen Cincinnati Reds pitcher Trevor Bauer previously, who also was throwing batting practice to her in the Arizona desert, but Montas was different.

“Honestly, I didn’t know much about him,” Halstead said on an episode of Momentum’s ‘Cork’d Up’ podcast. “I didn’t even know how hard he could throw.”

“I was waiting to hit off of him, one of the hitters there was like, ‘Dude, you know he throws like 100, right?’ I was like ‘What?’ ” Paige laughed. “I had no idea, I think, knowing that, going up there, I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m just going to swing as hard as I can.’ ”

Sometimes, that’s all you can do. 

During the hiatus, Montas also was throwing those triple digits to a high school kid. He used every outlet he could find to stay active. Whatever he was doing worked, as he got the Opening Day nod and continues to dominate on the mound.

In three games this season, Montas boasts a 2.25 ERA with 22 strikeouts in 23 innings. The velocity on his fastball hasn’t quite hit that 100 mark yet, but that will come with time. 

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“The first pitch [Montas] threw, I blinked, and it was gone,” Halstead said. “He throws gas, but I just try to close my eyes and swing as hard as I can.”

“He was super nice about it,” Halstead said. “He likes to talk trash too, so that was fun.”

How Tony Kemp has become everything A’s hoped for when he was acquired

How Tony Kemp has become everything A’s hoped for when he was acquired

The second base position was a big question mark for the A's heading into the 2020 MLB season.

Prior to spring training, the team’s main need was a lefty infield bat, particularly to platoon with Franklin Barreto who, if he figures it out at the major-league level, could be a game-changer for an entire lineup.

But Barreto hasn't gotten much of a chance this season, not with Tony Kemp around. He changed everything. Through two-plus weeks of the season, it appears those second base questions have been answered.

On Saturday, Chad Pinder got the start at second just as he did on Opening Day, but Kemp has done a sensational job of filling in when needed, and not just as a runner on second base when the A’s find themselves in extras innings -- which has been the case lately.

In 10 games this season, Kemp is slashing .316/.500/.316 with two stolen bases, and that on-base percentage is boosted by a 25.9 percent walk rate. Not to mention, in the month of August alone, he’s gone 6-for-12 with a 1.147 OPS and is batting .500.

“Tony’s playing very well too, so we’re comfortable with both of those guys,” A's manager Bob Melvin told reporters after Saturday’s 3-1 victory over the Houston Astros.

Before the season, Kemp was one of a many options vying for time at second base for the A’s, and now he's splitting time with Pinder.

Even with prospect Jorge Mateo traded to the San Diego Padres, it looked to be a difficult decision to make with Kemp being thrown into the mix with Barreto and Rule 5 addition Vimael Machin also there.

But Melvin hasn’t forgotten about them.

“Barreto and Machin are the guys that aren’t getting a ton of at-bats right now, but at some point in time, they’re going to be called upon whether it’s injury, whether it’s days off, and they’re both working hard to stay ready,” Melvin said.

Beyond the production at the plate, Kemp has blended in beautifully with the team as a whole.

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Only with the A's for a brief period of time, Kemp noticed the A’s wanted to learn about the “+1 Effect” campaign he launched, and his fun, playful personality lines up perfectly with the tone the team has always set. The productivity is an added bonus.

 “At this point in time, we like how we’re doing it with Tony and Chad,” Melvin added. “They’re both contributing to wins on both sides.”