SAN FRANCISCO — For the first time since 2019, Oracle Park brimmed at 100 percent capacity with mostly mask-less fans. A sea of orange and black dotted with gobs of green and gold — 36,928 total — showed up looking something to cheer for.
A’s fans in hostile territory had little to cheer for in Oakland’s 2-0 loss to the San Francisco Giants on Friday night to open up the Bay Bridge Series.
The Sean Manaea game: Manaea may not be the best hitter in the cage during batting practice, manager Bob Melvin noted, but he proved he’s no slouch against one of the game’s best pitchers in Johnny Cueto. Manaea accounted for two of the A’s six total hits on Friday night.
His two-strike double into the right-center gap was the A’s first hit off Cueto in the third inning. It sparked the A’s biggest scoring threats. Tony Kemp was hit by a pitch and Matt Chapman reached on an infield single to load the bases for Oakland’s hottest hitter, Matt Olson. But Olson flied out; a fruitless scoring threat.
Cueto didn’t shimmy and shake in Manaea’s first at-bat, but threw him some stutters in the second. Manaea countered with an infield single, making him the first A’s starter to go 2-for-2 in a game since Homer Bailey did it against the Giants in 2019.
“I love hitting. Even though I’m really bad at it. Yeah. It’s a lot of fun,” Manaea said. “First AB, I don’t think he did much, but second AB, he took a little pause and it really threw me off. But any time you get to face a legend like that, it’s always super fun. He’s been doing this for so long, I’ve lookd up to him for so long. So it’s awesome to hit against him and pitch against him.”
Manaea might have been able to decipher Cueto’s quick pitches and deception, but that third inning set the tone for their efforts. Cueto struck out six and limited hard contact through seven scoreless innings. Jed Lowrie and Manaea were the only ones to collect multi-hit games.
“We’ve had a tough time with him,” Melvin said. “He messes with your rhythm he even out of the windup will side step on you. Take his time, messes with your rhythm, his changeup was going down.”
Even if the rest of his teammates weren’t as successful on Friday, they celebrated Manaea’s success. Especially his fellow rotation mates.
“We all have competition between us,” Manaea said. “I’d say Swerve (Cole Irvin) is the most polished hitter being in the National League for a couple years, but there’s always a competition when we go against each other.”
Sean Manaea’s stuff: A two-out Brandon Crawford flare scored Wilmer Flores — who is slightly hobbled with a hamstring injury — from second base for Manaea’s only run allowed and two of the three total hits he’d give up on Friday.
Manaea walked three batters, including Cueto. Two came back-to-back in his sixth and final inning. After Matt Chapman dropped a pop fly and Matt Olson flicked it to third for a force out, Manaea got his seventh and final strikeout to escape the jam.
“In a game like that, one hit ends up beating you,” manager Bob Melvin said. “Unfortunately we couldn’t do enough offensively to give him support. He pitched great.”
Along with a fastball that’s averaging 93mph and touching 95mph on a consistent basis, Manaea re-incorporated his breaking ball into the mix on Friday after going strictly with his fastball and changeup in his strong two-run outing against the New York Yankees in his last start. Manaea said he made a few tweaks with his breaking ball between starts.
His one earned run allowed over seven innings dropped Manaea’s ERA to 2.91, good for seventh best in the American League.
“It’s a goal I set up for myself at the beginning of the year,” Manaea said. “I definitely put in a lot of work. So to see positive results is great, but at the end of the day it’s just 16 starts. Half way through the season as far as starts go. A lot of work to be done as far as starts go.”
Bullpen doings: Curt Casali hit a solo home run off A’s reliever Cam Bedrosian, who lasted all of one out in the seventh inning. But Deolis Guerra’s 1 2/3 innings of scoreless ball technically kept the A’s in the game.
American League West implications: A single loss shouldn’t weigh much, but any loss is magnified with the Houston Astros on an 11-game win streak, now 2.5 games up on the A’s for first place in the division.
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Author: Shayna Rubin