Athletics

Sean Manaea making A's wild-card decision tough with win vs. Mariners

Sean Manaea making A's wild-card decision tough with win vs. Mariners

It would be just about impossible to have a better month than the one Sean Manaea just capped off.

The left-hander shut down the Mariners for six innings Thursday night, allowing just one run on four hits with five strikeouts, as the A's earned a 3-1 victory to lower their magic number to clinch a playoff spot to one.

Manaea, 27, has made five starts in September after missing a full year with a shoulder injury. All he's done is go 4-0 with a 1.21 ERA.

"(This was his) first time on regular turn," A's manager Bob Melvin pointed out. "We tried to ease him back. He was on a week, then it was an extra day, and now it was on turn and he didn't look any different."

"I felt good," Manaea said. "No problems at all. Just like any other start." 

Manaea was even overpowering at times, inducing 13 swings and misses, mostly on his four-seam fastball, but also mixing in his changeup and slider. That's where Melvin believes Manaea has made his biggest improvement from last season.

"For me, it's the slider," Melvin told reporters. "The fastball and changeup have always been there. It's the slider that's kind of made him a true three-pitch guy. Different (velocities) on all of them too -- one breaks one way, one kind of goes down, and then his fastball plays up because of that. His fastball has always played up with the changeup, and now with the slider even more so, and he's able to locate it. He continues to get better and better and every start this year, he's been fantastic."

Manaea enjoyed plenty of success last season before getting injured, but this September has been his first time pitching in a pennant race. The pressure hasn't seemed to bother him one bit.

"Just keep doing what I've been doing," he told reporters. "Don't try to make anything bigger than what it needs to be. Just try to keep calm in a situation like that."

Manaea has made a strong case to start the Wild Card Game next week, despite his limited action this year. Of course, Friday's starter Mike Fiers could also make a claim to a start the Wild Card Game. The right-hander is 15-4 with a 3.91 ERA in 30 starts this season.

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It will be a tough decision, but it's a good problem to have. For now, the team is just focused on locking up home-field advantage in that Wild Card Game. If the A's win two of their final three games in Seattle, they will do just that.

"We've just got to keep playing and keep winning," Manaea said. "That's all that really matters."

A's coach Ryan Christenson says apparent Nazi salute was unintentional

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A's coach Ryan Christenson says apparent Nazi salute was unintentional

A's bench coach Ryan Christenson said he "unintentionally" gave a Nazi salute during Oakland's celebratory handshake line after Thursday's win over the Texas Rangers.

"I made a mistake and will not deny it," Christenson said in a statement released by the team. "Today in the dugout I greeted players with a gesture that was offensive. In the world today of [COVID-19] I adapted our elbow bump, which we do after wins, to create some distance with the players. My gesture unintentionally resulted in a racist and horrible salute that I do not believe in. What I did is unacceptable, and I deeply apologize."

The NBC Sports California broadcast showed Christenson raising his right arm with his palm facing down while A's closer Liam Hendriks approached.  Hendriks quickly grabbed Christenson's arm, bending it at the elbow for the coach's "elbow bump" celebration, which he said is done due to MLB's coronavirus safety protocols. Christenson then turned around and repeated the initial gesture.

"No, no straight arm, you have to bend your elbow," Christenson said Hendriks told him in an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle's Susan Slusser, referring to the coach's usual celebration.

"Oh, I see what you mean, oh no, it's like 'Heil Hitler,' " Christenson said after he turned, in his and Hendriks' recounting to Slusser.

The salute, typically followed by exclamations of "Heil Hitler" or "Sieg Heil," was a compulsory tribute to Adolf Hitler within the Nazi Party and, later, all of Germany under the Nazis' rule from 1933 through 1945. Still used by neo-Nazis and white supremacists long after the end of World War II, the Anti-Defamation League says the salute is "the most common white supremacist hand sign in the world."

The A's said in a statement that they were "deeply sorry this happened on our playing field."

"We do not support or condone this gesture, or the racist sentiment behind it," the A's said in a statement. "This is incredibly offensive, especially in these times when we as a [club] and many others are working to expose and address racial inequities in our country."

Before the A's released the pair of statements, Christenson told Slusser that he "wasn't doing that intentionally" and that "I just blacked out, my mind wasn't there and I spaced out."

"I'm cringing inside picturing myself," Christenson told Slusser. "Of course I'm sorry for it -- it's like standing there with my middle finger up. Anyone should know better."

A's Khris Davis reveals adjustment that led to production at plate

A's Khris Davis reveals adjustment that led to production at plate

Whatever he’s doing appears to be working.

Khris Davis proved his recent adjustment at the plate is paying dividends, as he tallied his second multi-hit game of the season during the A’s 6-4 sweep over the Texas Rangers on Thursday.

Davis said the coaching staff and teammates are to thank for the recent surge -- particularly hitting coach Darren Bush, who first suggested an alteration with Davis' hands.

“Yeah, I just put my hands back and further up a little and it’s been helping me be more accurate to the ball,” Davis said after the game. “I’m finding less swings and misses and a little better contact.”

“It’s all pretty comfortable right away, usually when you have to make an adjustment and you feel it click, you just run with that and don’t look back so it’s brought some comfort in the box so I’m going to keep working with it,” Davis said.

Davis went 2-for-3 on Thursday, driving in two runs in the 4th inning to break the game open.

“I think it’s a positioning thing, just having them further back -- less room to go,” he added. “They’re just already ready to fire and it’s been working.”

[BALK TALK: Listen to the latest episode]

Davis wants to be the everyday designated hitter, but that hasn’t necessarily been the case with his lack of production. Mark Canha has been taking over the DH spot in some of the outings, but it’s something Davis is ready to earn back.

“It is what it is,” Davis said. “And, I just have to capitalize on my opportunities that I do get. It’s s--tty, but I’ve been here before, I’ve lost my job before a couple times and I’ve had to battle back and this is nothing new to me.”

It turns out the oblique injury Davis suffered last season when he ran into the wall in May ended up leaving a bigger mark than just on his skin. 

"I think when I got hurt, I had been getting set up in a different way,” Davis said. “My body just wasn’t adjusting to that injury and just when I put my hands further back it just freed things up.”

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Oh, and his teammates are helping him a lot too.  

“A lot of good teammates, they know what it’s like to go through a struggle and they just kept reminding me that I could hit all around, I don’t have to hit a home run or whatever, but they constantly say that I’m a good hitter, I’m [not just] a power hitter.”