MILWAUKEE — The learning experiences continue for Sean Manaea.
If only they didn’t come at such a high cost for the A’s rookie.
Manaea did plenty that was good Tuesday night. He threw a career-high seven innings and took a load off Oakland’s over-worked bullpen. He struck out six and made a nice defensive play fielding a squeeze bunt and cutting down a runner at home.
But there was a poorly located fastball to Brewers slugger Chris Carter in the second. And then another in the sixth.
Two Carter homers, five runs, and one serious damper on what could have been a much better night in the A’s 5-4 loss at Miller Park.
“Just those two mistakes I felt like really killed me,” Manaea said. “It’s just something I’ve got to keep working on. This whole thing’s a learning process and I’m trying everything I can to get better at those things.”
The A’s fourth consecutive defeat was definitely one of their odder games of the season. They trailed 5-0 and didn’t record their first hit off Milwaukee right-hander Zach Davies until the seventh — a two-run homer from Billy Butler. They entered the ninth with just two hits and trailing by three, but they somehow managed a rally that brought the tying run to third base with just one out, only to leave that runner stranded to end the game.
[INSTANT REPLAY: Carter, Davies hand A's fourth straight loss]
It drops the A’s to a season-high 11 games back in the American League West. They’ve followed a five-game winning streak with a four-game losing streak, not the first time they’ve managed such a maddening pattern.
At least Manaea’s development is something that can be followed without making your head hurt. It’s clear the 24-year-old lefty has the ability to get major league hitters out. He just needs to avoid the ill-timed costly mistakes.
In the second, catcher Stephen Vogt called for an outside fastball on the first pitch to Carter. Manaea caught too much plate, and Carter sent the pitch into orbit.
“Obviously we know Carter real well,” Vogt said of the former Athletic. “Unfortunately I called an outside fastball on the first homer and I shouldn’t have done that.”
After back-to-back singles in the sixth, Manaea jumped ahead of Carter 0-2. Vogt called for a fastball up and in this time. Manaea left the pitch outside, allowing Carter to get his arms extended for another deep homer to straightaway center, a three-run shot that put the A’s in a 5-0 hole.
“It’s really one of his better games,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said of Manaea. “It came down to two pitches. He got deep in the game, was pretty efficient. He seems to be a lot more comfortable. It just comes down to two pitches that left the ballpark.”
Two pitches that ultimately defined Manaea’s night, despite the encouraging things that he did.
Khris Davis stepped to the on-deck circle in the ninth with two outs, the tying run at third and Chris Coghlan up. Coghlan flied out to end the game, so Melvin was spared the decision on whether to actually send Davis into the game despite a nerve problem in his left hand. The manager wasn’t saying after the game whether Davis actually would have pinch-hit for the pitcher’s spot.
Now the question is whether Davis — who saw a doctor for continuing numbness in his hand, stemming from being hit by a pitch Saturday — will return to the lineup Wednesday night. The A’s, lifeless offensively for much of Tuesday night, were missing not only Davis but their hottest hitter, third baseman Danny Valencia, who was sick.
Valencia made a brief visit to the ballpark, Melvin said, but his availability for Wednesday also is unknown.