OAKLAND — Left-hander Sean Manaea’s recent struggles are a mystery to the A’s.
Manaea had little more to say after his latest blowup than, “I got beat really bad. Honestly, I have no idea.”
In a 12-5 loss to Baltimore on Saturday night, Manaea gave up six earned runs in one-third of an inning — the briefest of his 46 career major league starts.
Manager Bob Melvin was still scratching his head Sunday.
“Physically, he feels good. That’s the most important thing,” Melvin said. “He’s just going through a tough stretch. And (that) was the toughest.”
Over his past five outings, Manaea (8-7) has allowed 20 earned runs in 19 1/3 innings.
Melvin says Manaea has to make sure he’s not complicating things.
“There are times when you’ve got to settle in and say, `OK, what are my strengths? Let’s just go ahead and do that.’ Maybe at times you try to jam things in there that aren’t your strength to try to make you feel better at the time,” he said.
“There’s always a balance between what your strengths and weaknesses are and what a hitter’s strengths and weaknesses are. When push comes to shove you have to stay with what you do well.”
Melvin conceded that Manaea’s velocity has dipped some in recent weeks, but isn’t sure how to explain that, either.
“You hate to say dead arm, but at this point in time it seems like it’s down a little bit. We’re still trying to figure out a little bit why, because he does feel good,” he said.
Manaea might try to alter his off-day bullpen routine, Melvin suggested, but skipping a start after a 28-pitch outing is not an option the manager is considering.
“Hopefully he’ll be a little more refreshed next time out,” Melvin said. “Anytime a guy’s that good and struggles the way he has it’s a concern. But over the course of a career, guys are going to go through that.”
–Kendall Graveman starts Sunday’s series-ending afternoon game vs. Baltimore, and Melvin hopes the right-hander finds a groove in his third start since returning from a 2 1/2-month absence because of a sore shoulder.
Graveman was lit up for seven earned runs in two innings in his return game against the Giants on Aug. 3. He was somewhat better on Aug 8, allowing three runs in 5 1/3 innings.
“Now that he has a couple starts under his belt, we expect him to go out there and perform well,” Melvin said. “He feels good, Has the full complement of pitches today and we always expect good things out of him.”
With four losses in their past five games and having equaled a season-worst 15 games under .500 (51-66), the A’s need a lift from one of their starters.
“When your rotation is having a little bit of a difficult time there’s always a guy you try to lean on. He has the ability to be that guy,” Melvin said.
* Melvin praised the defensive work of center fielder Boog Powell and first baseman Matt Olson, who combined on an unusual play to gun down Matt Trumbo, who was trying to stretch a single into a double in the fifth inning of the Orioles’ 12-5 win.
Olson outran Trumbo from first to second, took Powell’s throw and applied the tag that prevented Baltimore from ultimately equaling a club record with nine doubles. In particular, watching Olson dash to second base to make the play was impressive.
“That’s his job depending on where the other guys are lined up, cut-off wise. He got there in a hurry,” Melvin said. “He was there in time to make the play, and it was a good, strong throw from Powell.
“Powell showed that he can move around in the outfield pretty well. You’re always trying to find things that guys do for you well and that was a good play by both of them.”
Olson also homered in his second straight game after being recalled from Triple-A Nashville on Tuesday for his sixth string with the A’s. Melvin hopes Olson is feeling more comfortable this time.
“For the first time,” Melvin said, “he’s able to kind of settle in and know he’s going to be in there consistently. He’s not one day away from having to pack up and move again.”
* Josh Phegley, on the 10-day DL with an oblique strain, will work out with the team Monday, according to Melvin, then join the club’s Triple-A team in Nashville to DH on either Tuesday or Wednesday.
Jake Smolinski, coming back from shoulder surgery on March, will continue to DH for the Stockton Ports Class A team, Melvin said. He was 0-for-2 with a walk and a run scored in his first game on Saturday night.
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