OAKLAND — Sean Manaea deftly navigated his way through potential trouble Wednesday afternoon, and that helped the A’s finish off their best homestand of 2016.
The rookie left-hander struck out a career-high eight over six innings to notch his second major league victory as the A’s beat the Minnesota Twins 5-1 to polish off a three-game sweep. That makes five wins in a row for the A’s, who rang up their first winning homestand of the season by going 5-1 against Detroit and Minnesota.
Playing better at the Coliseum is a must if the A’s are to contend in the American League West. And a big part of their winning formula in the past week has been improved starting pitching. In bad need of their starting five to pitch deeper in ballgames, the A’s got five quality starts out of their six games in front of the home fans.
[STIGLICH: Notes: A's target a return date for Sonny Gray]
Manaea (2-3) shined in Wednesday’s matinee, holding the Twins to one run on five hits before handing things over to a bullpen that also has been stellar over this winning streak. Manaea walked three, and he stranded runners in scoring position in each of the first three innings. His best work came in the sixth, when he loaded the bases with no outs but returned to the dugout with just one run scoring. After Eduardo Escobar’s sacrifice fly, the lefty stuck out Max Kepler and Juan Centeno to finish his afternoon.
Timely hitting, another staple during the winning streak, also helped. The A’s notched three run-scoring hits with two outs, helping run their home winning streak to a season-high five games as they hit the road for an eight-game road trip through Houston, Milwaukee and Cincinnati.
Starting pitching report
Manaea managed to come up with key strikeouts whenever he needed them. He used his fastball effectively but also kept the Twins off-balance and chasing his changeup, a pitch that the rookie has been working to hone all season. That pitch was also the key weapon for him in his first big league victory, which came May 16 against Texas at the Coliseum.
Ryan Dull, Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson closed out the ‘W’ for Manaea.
At the plate
Danny Valencia stayed hot with a three-hit game that raised his average to .346. But Billy Butler, drawing the start at first base against Twins lefty Pat Dean (1-2), also had a big day. He doubled in the second and came around to score on Billy Burns’ infield single. Then Butler singled with two outs in the third to score Jed Lowrie and make it a 2-0 game. Valencia’s double keyed a fifth inning rally, with Khris Davis’ sacrifice fly making it 4-0, and Coco Crisp’s RBI single in the sixth capped the A’s scoring for the day.
In the field
Neither team committed an error.
A crowd of just 11,345 watched the A’s extend their winning streak.
After a day off Thursday, the A’s begin an eight-game road trip with three in Houston. Friday — Jesse Hahn (2-2, 4.15) vs. Doug Fister (4-3, 3.86), 5:10 p.m. Saturday — Rich Hill (8-3, 2.25) vs. Collin McHugh (5-4, 4.82), 1:10 p.m. Sunday — Kendall Graveman (2-6, 5.09) vs. Lance McCullers (2-1, 4.79), 11:10 a.m. All three games will air on CSN California.