"He's got a much firmer handshake grip right now when he comes out of games," A's manager Bob Melvin said, smiling. "He surprised me with that one today. But there is a lot of confidence oozing out of him at this point."
The lefty made quick work of the Rangers, composing eight innings of one-run ball to tie a bow on yet another precise performance and earn the win that eluded him five days prior, when he was saddled with a tough-luck loss against the Angels.
After allowing a single run in 7 2/3 innings in his season debut, Manaea captured victory with a similarly impressive display on Wednesday, working efficiently and effectively with 94 pitches at the Coliseum. He allowed three hits, all singles.
Should Manaea continue to go through these motions, he'll have his first complete game to add to his resume.
"This early in the year, there is no way I'm going to let him go out there in the ninth inning," Melvin said. "There is a residual effect from that. He had only been up five, maybe six times in Spring Training, then seven times his first time up, eight his next. He gets into any kind of pitch-count battle, you get over 100 pitches early in the season like that, there was no way. He wanted to, but there was no way I was going to let him go back out."
"Obviously I wanted to finish the game, but talking to BoMel, it kind of wasn't the right idea this early in the season," Manaea said. "I respect his decision and hopefully I can finish out a game one time."
Manaea fanned three and induced 10 groundouts, including two double-play balls that helped him out of the first and fourth innings. He faced the minimum in five frames, slowed just once in the fifth when the Rangers got a run on Ryan Rua's ground-ball forceout that was nearly an inning-ending double play.
Even still, Manaea's pitch count sat at 66 when he entered the sixth, finishing his night by retiring 10 straight batters. He's the only A's starter to pitch past the fifth inning this season.
The A's gave him ample run support: Bruce Maxwell got them on the board with an RBI double in the second, and Jed Lowrie notched a two-run single as part of a four-run fourth to send Rangers starter Doug Fister out of the game. Matt Olson chimed in with an RBI single in the seventh.
Manaea's ace-like efforts have him sitting on a 1.15 ERA after two starts, with only two runs to his name through 15 2/3 innings. On just two occasions in 2017 did he complete at least seven innings with no more than one run allowed.
Manaea was often bogged down by big innings that would escape him last year. Along the way, he took mental notes.
"You saw me last year. There were some really tough games," he said, "and I just let the bad things get to my head, and it wasn't good. So going through situations like that and remembering what that was like helped me out today. Just not caving in, not mentally freaking out or panicking.
"It's been amazing. That confidence that I'm going to go out and help the ballclub and throw my pitches for strikes and not cave in to situations like the fourth, things like that, just to have the confidence to put my foot down and know that I'm not going to let anybody else score is huge. It's a world of difference between last year and this year."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Dropped at the plate: The A's were leading, 1-0, against Fister when they loaded the bases with no outs in the fourth. No. 9 hitter Boog Powell hit a ground ball at first baseman Joey Gallo, who fired home trying to get Matt Chapman on a force. The throw was high and wide. Catcher Robinson Chirinos made a nice adjustment, caught the ball and put the tag on Chapman. But the ball jarred loose and Chapman was safe. Marcus Semien chipped in with a sacrifice fly in a four-run inning capped by Lowrie's two-run single.
Pinder runs down Profar: The Rangers, trailing 5-0, had two on and no out in the fifth when Jurickson Profar hit a fly ball deep down the right-field line. The ball appeared to be trouble, but Pinder raced into the corner and made a nice running catch. The Rangers ended up scoring once in the inning, but Pinder's catch kept it from escalating.
"It was unbelievable," Manaea said. "If he doesn't make that catch, probably one or two guys score, and it could change the entire ballgame. It was incredible."
QUOTABLE "It was fantastic. It's pretty impressive. He's composed. He's doing everything to keep us in the ballgame, and that's all you can ask of a starting pitcher." -- Pinder, on Manaea
WHAT'S NEXT The A's will have Daniel Mengden on the mound for Thursday's 12:35 p.m. PT series finale against the Rangers. The right-hander is still seeking his first career win at the Coliseum, where he is 0-9 with a 6.57 ERA in 12 starts. He allowed six runs (five earned) in 5 2/3 innings against the Angels on Saturday in his season debut.