OAKLAND – So maybe the fairy tale could have gone even better for Sean Manaea on Friday.
He could have put up all zeroes on the scoreboard, got a ‘W’ next to his name.
Nevertheless, the A’s prized pitching prospect won’t soon forget his major league debut. He left the game in the top of the sixth but was back in the dugout by the ninth to watch Yonder Alonso hit a three-run homer to give the A’s a 7-4 victory over the Houston Astros, their first walk-off victory of 2016.
“Just going on the mound for the first inning, looking around and just seeing all the fans. It was amazing,” Manaea said of his first big league game.
The A’s expect the 6-foot-5 lefty, their highest-rated pitching prospect in several years, to deliver plenty of big moments as his career unfolds. On Friday, it was his teammates who treated him to quite the thrill ride.
Home-field advantage hasn’t treated the A’s all that kindly over the last couple of years. But coming off a deflating end to a 10-game road trip, where they lost five of their last six, they needed to get this six-game homestand started on a strong note. Down 4-2 in the eighth, several A’s were responsible for the chain reaction of events that led to their comeback.
A solo homer from Marcus Semien. A single and stolen base from Billy Burns and game-tying sacrifice fly from Jed Lowrie. Then Burns came through with an excellent defensive play, running down a ball in left and firing to third to nail Carlos Gomez as he tried to stretch a double into a triple.
That capped a bizarre night for Burns, who was batting from the left side when he lined a foul ball in the fifth that drilled third base coach Ron Washington in the right leg. Washington was down on the ground and in pain for several minutes. After the game, he was walking through the clubhouse with an ice pack around his calf but was able to smile about the experience.
“It got him right on the side of the shin bone,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “It was a bullet. You expect a righty to pull one down there. You don’t expect a lefty to hit one. He was hurting for a minute. I’m sure the win makes him feel better.”
Alonso was beaming after he crushed a 1-0 pitch from ex-Athletic Pat Neshek into the right field seats for his first home run with the A’s and the first walk-off homer of his career.
“Incredible,” Alonso said. “You don’t feel anything. You’re flying around the bases. To be honest you get goose bumps running around. You just wanna take it all in.”
But this night, in the end, was still all about Manaea. Called up Friday to replace Eric Surkamp in the rotation, he’s expected to remain a long-term fixture in an A’s rotation that has showed some serious vulnerability on the road trip.
Manaea went five-plus innings, gave up just four hits but also walked four and hit a batter. Though he was charged with four runs, two scored after he left the game. His fastball sat in the 93-94 mph range. He snapped off a 3-2 slider to ring up Carlos Correa for his first career strikeout in the first. His command left plenty of room for improvement, but Alonso was impressed with the way Manaea handled himself.
“You could just tell he was ready, focused, and it was gonna be a competitive outing,” Alonso said.
Melvin talked before the game of Manaea’s poise, but the young lefty admitted he had some pregame jitters.
“I was shaking, just sitting here before the game,” he admitted.
Manaea estimated he had about 20 people in the stands cheering him on, most of them making the trip from Indiana, where he grew up and played collegiately at Indiana State. His parents were here, his girlfriend, some high school teammates and others. Manaea was aware of many more watching back home.
No doubt they enjoyed watching him in action. And when the ninth inning rolled around, Manaea’s teammates gave him plenty of entertaining viewing as well.
Putting a slight damper on the night, Melvin said right-hander Chris Bassitt would be going for a second opinion on his elbow after having an MRI Friday. Melvin didn't give specifics but said, "It’s something that we have to look a little further into.”