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Manaea's 2019 Coliseum debut a beauty

@MartinJGallegos
September 8, 2019

OAKLAND -- More than a year had gone by since left-hander Sean Manaea pitched at the Coliseum. Making his grand return to the home mound on Sunday for the first time back from shoulder surgery, he was in vintage form. On the heels of a historic performance by A’s pitchers

OAKLAND -- More than a year had gone by since left-hander Sean Manaea pitched at the Coliseum. Making his grand return to the home mound on Sunday for the first time back from shoulder surgery, he was in vintage form.

On the heels of a historic performance by A’s pitchers that saw them rack up a franchise-record 19 strikeouts in a win the night before, Manaea nearly threatened to break that record on his own with a dominant performance. He matched a career high 10 punchouts through seven innings of a 3-1 victory over the Tigers. The win keeps Oakland in control of the second American League Wild Card spot, 1 1/2 games ahead of Cleveland.

Box score

Manaea’s previous 10-strikeout performance? He remembers it quite vividly. That came last year on April 21, the night of his no-hitter against the Red Sox.

“It’s amazing. I’ve been thinking about this day for a while, and to go back out there and throw seven innings like that was huge,” Manaea said. “It’s something I was really looking forward to, and I’m glad I pitched well.”

After Chris Bassitt struck out a career-high 11 batters on Saturday night, Manaea’s strikeout-heavy day gave the A’s back-to-back games with a 10-K effort by a pitcher for the first time since Vida Blue and Catfish Hunter from June 25-26, 1971.

Manaea doesn’t have the luxury of Bassitt’s 98-mph fastball, so he had to get it done by figuring out the right mix of his three pitches in order to keep hitters off balance.

Despite a fastball that averaged only 89.8 mph, Manaea recorded all 10 of his strikeouts on swinging strikes. He threw 64 of his 96 pitches for strikes, 23 of them swinging.

“Velo is what it is. I’m trying to throw hard again, but if it’s not there, I think it’s more about the conviction that I have with my pitches,” Manaea said. “I got a couple of swings and misses with 89. If that’s what it takes, that’s what I got. I can’t be greedy and upset about not throwing 95 or 97. I’m just working with what I’ve got.”

Manaea has shined in his first two starts back from a shoulder surgery that sidelined him for nearly an entire year. After tossing five scoreless innings at Yankee Stadium last week, he has allowed one run through 12 innings over two starts this season, with 15 strikeouts and five walks.

Josh Phegley has been behind the plate for both of Manaea’s starts in 2019. Although the amount of strikeouts on the lower-velocity fastball may look like a surprise, Phegley cited Manaea’s 6-foot-5 frame and awkward arm slot and delivery angle as factors that make the pitch appear faster to opposing pitchers than it actually is.

“He just has that natural ride on his fastball and a deceptive delivery. He’s tall and long-limbed, so it looks very deliberate to the plate, and then the ball kind of jumps out of his hand,” Phegley said. “I know it’s reading 88, 89, 90, but it’s playing up. I’ve never seen anyone throw a fastball like his, kind of up and out of the zone with so many swings.”

It also requires a certain confidence to attack hitters with a decreased velocity, one Manaea certainly carries on the mound.

“He feels he can blow his 90-mph fastball by anybody,” Phegley said. “He attacks the zone with all his pitches and forces teams to swing the bat. First two starts back from surgery, that’s pretty phenomenal.”

Khris Davis provided Manaea some run support with a booming two-run double off Tigers reliever Drew VerHagen in the fourth, contributing to a win that now puts the A’s a season-best 25 games above .500 and secured another series victory with 19 games remaining in the regular season.

“This is the month where we get some backup. We get some help,” Phegley said. “The guys who have grinded it out for us all year get some extra rest with a guy who is dealing as a sixth man. We’re going to make it hard on teams. We need to win as many games as we can, and it’s good to have a guy like [Manaea] back in the rotation.”

An emotional outing for Petit

Reliever Yusmeiro Petit made the tough decision to stay in the Bay Area following the death of his father, Alberto. After two days away from the club, Petit took the mound for the first time since his father’s passing, turning in a scoreless eighth inning, with two strikeouts.

Petit froze Travis Demeritte on a curveball for an inning-ending strikeout and immediately pointed to his friend Miguel Cabrera, who from the Tigers dugout joined the rest of the 24,550 fans in attendance in applause as Petit walked off the mound. When he returned to the dugout, he was received with a hug from manager Bob Melvin and each of his teammates.

“It was emotional for everybody in the dugout,” Melvin said. “You’re used to seeing him out there a lot, but it was a little different circumstance this time. I’m sure it was an emotional moment for him.”

Petit said he was trying to use the experience of losing his mother last year to help deal with the emotions on the mound on Sunday, but this was unlike anything he’s been a part of.

“I was nervous, more nervous than my Major League debut,” Petit said. “The first time back, I wanted to honor my father the best way possible, and I did that. It’s out of the way.”

Martin Gallegos covers the A's for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @MartinJGallegos.