OAKLAND — Not much went well for the A’s in the first half of the season. The club limped into the All-Star break with a losing record for the third consecutive season, bottom-feeders of the American League West. Their standing as worst in the division remains, but they have been flawless with a second half that could not have started any better.
The A’s completed a three-game sweep of the AL Central-leading Cleveland Indians on Sunday, pummeling starter Trevor Bauer early en route to a 7-3 victory in front of 25,509 fans at the Coliseum.
“A lot of times it’s how you catch a team and certainly they weren’t playing their best baseball,” manager Bob Melvin said. “But we’ll take it. It’s important to try to win a series coming out of the break and to sweep is just an added bonus. You don’t expect to sweep a team like that.”
Bauer faced a total of eight batters in the first inning and retired only two. He walked four batters and allowed hits to another three, including a pair of two-run singles to Ryon Healy and Jaycob Brugman, before manager Terry Francona removed him from the game. Bauer exited the game having allowed four first-inning runs in what was the shortest outing of his career.
“This is the start we were looking to come out with,” outfielder Khris Davis said. “We just got after it from the beginning.”
Dan Otero came on in relief and managed to finally get out of the inning, but it did not take long for the A’s to get to him as well.
Jed Lowrie took Otero deep with a solo shot over the right field wall to extend Oakland’s lead to 5-0. It was Lowrie’s 10th home run of the season, marking his highest total since 2013 when he finished with 16.
The offensive explosion provided Sean Manaea with more than enough run support. Aside from a hiccup in the fourth inning in which he allowed two runs on a single by Michael Brantley, the left-hander turned in another strong performance as tossed seven innings while allowing just the two runs with eight strikeouts. It was Manaea’s third consecutive outing in which he pitched at least seven innings while allowing three runs or less.
“Today was the best game I’ve had,” Manaea said. “I’m finally starting to feel comfortable with my slider and being able to throw it for strikes in any count. It’s fun going up against a good team like the Indians and having success.”
Only a second-year player, Melvin said Manaea has quickly matured into a pitcher that the club can lean on to consistently pitch deep into a ballgame. Already at 111 pitches with two outs and runners on the corners in the seventh, Melvin had no problem allowing Manaea the chance to pitch his way out of the inning, which he did by striking out Brandon Guyer to preserve a 5-2 lead.
“He knows we have that confidence in him,” Melvin said. “I think his slider has a lot to do with what he’s doing right now. When he has that going, now he’s got three-plus pitches that can make you swing and miss.”
Two more runs came across the plate for the A’s in the eighth when Matt Chapman and Josh Phegley both scored on an infield single by Matt Joyce that deflected off Indians closer Cody Allen and trickled to Francisco Lindor.
Manaea picked up his team-leading eighth win of the season and the A’s won their third consecutive game, putting them 6.5 games back of a Wild Card spot in a race that is jam-packed with several teams still ahead.
- Jharel Cotton’s hand is now free of blisters and calluses, allowing him to throw comfortably again. He threw a bullpen session at the Coliseum on Sunday morning and said he, “feels good.” Cotton will make a rehab appearance for Triple-A Nashville on Wednesday behind Kendall Graveman, who will make the start for Nashville as he recovers from his shoulder injury. “If he feels good and all goes well with that, we’ll get him back and fit him into the rotation.” Melvin said.
- Chris Smith will make his second-career big league start when he takes the mound for the A’s on Tuesday against the Tampa Bay Rays.
- Blake Treinen, relief pitcher acquired in the five-player deal with Washington on Sunday, is expected to join the team on Monday. Melvin said Treinen will be used along with Liam Hendriks and Daniel Coulombe in the late-inning/set up role that is now open after the club traded away Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson.
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