OAKLAND — The bases were jammed with Giants in the fourth inning as Sean Manaea found himself in one of those situations that have gotten the best of A’s starters so often this season.
This time, danger was averted.
Manaea got Mac Williamson to hit into an inning-ending double play, then let out a demonstrative show of emotion as he headed back toward the dugout.
It wasn’t the only big moment for the A’s in Wednesday’s 7-1 victory over the Giants, but it was the moment that defined Manaea’s night in his return from the disabled list. The 6-foot-5 lefty was excellent, holding the Giants scoreless over 5 2/3 innings and striking out four.
If not for a conservative pitch limit in his first start back, he could have gone longer than 83 pitches. But he rose to the occasion in front of a charged-up Coliseum crowd in his first taste of the cross-bay rivalry.
“That was dominating stuff,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “That’s the stuff you’ve heard about when the name Sean Manaea came up when we made the trade” to get him from Kansas City last July.
“I know he felt good about it. So did we.”
Manaea turned in the second stellar effort from an A’s rookie starter in the first three games of this series. On Monday, Daniel Mengden held San Francisco to two runs over 7 2/3 innings. Their performances exemplified how this series has played out overall, as the A’s aim Thursday for their first sweep of a Bay Bridge Series since they took three in a row June 17-19, 2011.
It’s the A’s who have come through in the biggest moments, executing, playing loose and aggressive and waiting for the Giants to shoot themselves in the foot, then being opportunistic and capitalizing.
The A’s (35-43) have won six of their past seven and find themselves seven games out in the AL Wild Card chase. That’s nothing to get too overly excited about, but it offers a glimmer of hope that this season isn’t a lost cause just yet. Oakland is averaging 7.6 runs over its last seven games, and on Wednesday they again got production from all over the batting order. Second baseman Jed Lowrie, who hit a two-run homer just out of the grasp of Williamson in right field, likes what he sees but cautioned the A’s need to sustain what they have going.
“It’s great to get these runs in bunches, but to win over the course of the season you gotta be able to consistently put up runs,” Lowrie said. “It doesn’t mean scoring 13 in one game, seven the next. It’s being able to manufacture runs, get guys on, get them over, get them in. That’s how you’re gonna consistently win games.”
The A’s did just that Wednesday, and Manaea made it stand. He had a degree of concern leading into Wednesday’s start, simply because he felt some mild soreness in his forearm following Friday’s rehab start with Single-A Stockton. That worry vanished quickly Wednesday, as he had command of his entire repertoire.
“I was kinda worried before the game about my forearm, but as the game went on I didn't feel a thing,” he said. “It was really good. I was able to locate all my pitches, get some weak contact. … (My arm) felt good even after the game. I’m not worried about a thing going (forward).”
Manaea had an idea of what he wanted to do when Williamson stepped up with the bases loaded and one out in the fourth, with Oakland up 3-0. The two faced each other in the Arizona Fall League, and Manaea retired him by keeping the ball on the outer portion of the plate. He and catcher Stephen Vogt went outside in the fourth on the right-handed hitter, and the result was a 6-4-3 double play.
A fired-up Manaea pumped his arms twice and let out a yell.
“From what everyone has been saying, the Bay Bridge Series, it’s always gonna be a good series,” Manaea said. “Being in that moment, getting those big outs was huge. All those emotions I had just let out.”