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.
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."