Manaea chased in 3rd in rare rough start 

Pressed into service early, A's bullpen stellar in final six innings

May 14th, 2021

When carried a no-hitter into the eighth inning of his start against the Rays last week, signs of an impending dominant performance showed up early. His command was on point from the jump, generating plenty of weak contact to breeze through a quick first inning on 11 pitches.

The early signs of his outing on Thursday night gave off the opposite vibes.

After an impressive stretch built up over the last month, Manaea struggled in the A’s 8-1 loss to the Red Sox at Fenway Park. It only took nine pitches into the first for the left-hander to find himself in an early 3-0 deficit. Retiring just six of the 17 batters he faced, Manaea was pulled with the bases loaded and no outs in the third, ending up charged for seven runs. The rare rough start was the shortest of his career since he went just one-third of an inning on Aug. 12, 2017, against the Orioles.

It was just the second time in A’s history that an A’s starter lasted two innings or fewer while allowing at least 10 hits. The last instance came on Aug. 26, 2000, when Mark Mulder gave up six runs on 10 hits over two innings against the Yankees.

“He just threw some balls in the middle of the plate,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “They were just aggressive early in the count, whether it was fastball or not. Just didn’t locate the way we’ve seen him locate here recently.”

Manaea’s history pitching in Boston was not favorable. He entered the night 1-2 with a 13.14 ERA in three career starts at Fenway. On Thursday, Red Sox hitters jumped all over him with seven batted balls that registered at an exit velocity of 105 mph or harder. Over 47 pitches, Manaea recorded just six whiffs (swings and misses), a number that is usually more than double that at the end of his outings.

By the time he left the ballgame, Manaea joined Jake Peavy as just the second Major League pitcher in the Statcast era (since 2015) to allow seven such hits in a game.

“Something in the air here,” Manaea said. “I don’t really know what’s going on here. I was just talking to some guys about that. I don’t even know. I just know my numbers here are not good at all.”

Given the success dating back to early April -- he entered the day 3-0 with a 2.23 ERA over his last six starts -- Manaea probably won’t spend too much time trying to overanalyze what went wrong. He said he’ll watch the tape in advance of his next start, but the lefty already has a good idea of what needs to be done in order to get back on track.

“I wasn’t executing pitches,” Manaea said. “I was throwing strikes, but I don’t think they were quality strikes. I just have to wash it and get ready for the next one.”

On a night when the A’s offense also struggled to get much going against Red Sox starter Garrett Richards, the one positive came from the bullpen. Following Manaea’s early exit, the trio of , and saved an already taxed relief corps by limiting Boston to just three hits over the final six innings.

Guerra’s effort in particular earned major praise from his manager. Relieving Manaea in the third, the right-hander worked three scoreless innings, which marked his fifth appearance of at least two innings in 11 games pitched this season.

“Guerra has saved us a bunch of times,” Melvin said. “He’s been really good for us. I don’t necessarily target him in down games all the time. But they all did a good job keeping it right there and  [saved us from] having to use the other guys. It gets them some work on top of that.”

Despite the lopsided defeat in Thursday's finale, the A’s came away with yet another series win by taking two of three from Boston. Tied for the most wins (23) in baseball, Oakland is now 7-1-2 over its last 10 series played.

“Just keep winning series, especially on the road,” A’s second baseman said. “If you can come into a place and win two out of three on the road against one of the teams with the best record in the league, that’s all you can ask for.”