Sean Manaea missed more than a year with an injury to his pitching shoulder. Somehow, he hasn't missed a beat.
The A's left-hander tossed six shutout innings Sunday, allowing just three hits and a walk with six strikeouts as Oakland beat Texas 6-1 for its sixth straight win.
"Every time out, it's borderline dominance," A's manager Bob Melvin told reporters. "As the game went along, he got better and better. Absolutely fantastic. He definitely set the tone."
In three starts since returning from the injured list earlier this month, Manaea has surrendered just one run and six hits in 18 innings, with 21 strikeouts. That translates to an ERA of 0.50.
"It's been fun to play behind Sean every start," A's third baseman Matt Chapman told reporters. "He's worked quick. It seems like not a lot of guys have been getting on base. He's thrown a lot of strikes and he seems super confident. It just goes to show how hard he worked to come back."
The A's have received strong production from their entire starting rotation for most of the season, but Manaea is starting to separate himself from the pack. If the 27-year-old continues to dominate his opposition at this level, he would seem to be the clear frontrunner to start a potential Wild Card Game.
"It's almost like we've got a fresh guy now too," Melvin said. "He's pitching like he's fresh. ... Unfortunately, he had to go through what he had to go through to get to this pace, but it's a fresh, live arm right now. Every time he goes out there, the team just feels better about themselves."
With 12 games remaining in the regular season, the A's sit at 90-60, the same exact record as last season through 150 games. Oakland leads Tampa Bay by 1 1/2 games for the first wild-card position and Cleveland by three games for the second spot.
The A's open their final homestand of the season on Monday against the Kansas City Royals.