BY ANTHONY SOSA
In front of a crowd of 25,746, Oakland Athletics’ starting pitcher Sean Manaea pulled off one of the most impressive feats in baseball by throwing a no-hitter and striking out 10 against the team with the best record in the game, dominating the Boston Red Sox in a 3-0 victory Saturday night at the Oakland Coliseum.
Manaea, who’s started the 2018 season off strong, did something only six other Oakland Athletics’ pitchers have ever done. He became the 12th pitcher in A’s history to throw a no-hitter but just the seventh to do so since the A’s moved to Oakland in 1968. The last one came when Dallas Braden threw a perfect game on Mother’s Day in 2010.
“Honestly, it still doesn’t feel real,” Manaea said after the game. “Even after the last out, I couldn’t imagine throwing a no-hitter, especially against a team like the Red Sox. It’s an incredible feeling.”
Manaea admitted that he didn’t realize that he even had a no-hitter going until he looked up at the scoreboard in the eighth inning. Two controversial calls occurred while Manaea was on the mound. In the top of the fifth inning, Sandy Leon blooped a ball to shallow left-center field. Shortstop Marcus Semien bobbled the ball and it fell to the ground. The official ruling was an error on the play.
The following inning, Andrew Benintendi hit a slow grounder up the first base line. First baseman Matt Olson fielded the ball but missed the tag on Benintendi and the umpires originally ruled him safe. After manager Bob Melvin came out to question the call, the umpires got together and ruled that Benintendi ran out of the baseline, and thus called him out.
“For me he started out on the grass and ended up on the grass on the other side,” Melvin said about the strange play at first base. “You know we have a six-foot, six-inch first baseman, who was stretched out full length. For me, three feet is kind of what they’re talking about. Once you get out of the dirt area and on to the grass, for me it was out of the base line.”
Manaea showed strong emotion after he struck out Jackie Bradley Jr. in the bottom of the eighth inning. After he completed the no-hitter his teammates mobbed him on the field. “In a game like that, when you have a no-hitter it is special regardless,” Melvin said. “But probably a little bit more based on the fact these guys (Red Sox) don’t lose, and they’ve been swinging the bats so well.” Boston came into the game with a Major League best 17-2 record to start the season.
After tonight’s start against the Red Sox, Manaea improved his ERA to 1.23. In 36.2 innings in 2018, the left-hander has allowed just five runs and has struck out 30 batters. “It all comes down to preparation,” Manaea said. “Talking to teammates, talking to coaches. The first couple years I was just happy to be up here and be part of the team. Being more prepared, writing stuff down, talking to people instead of trying to figure everything out by yourself. It makes such a big difference.”
Although Manaea didn’t notice the no-hitter until the end was near, his catcher Jonathan Lucroy knew what was going on. It was the first no-hitter Lucroy has ever caught in his career. “I’ve had two no-hitters go into the seventh and two perfect games go into the sixth or seventh,” Lucroy said. “You get to that point and look at the scoreboard behind the plate, I’m watching pitch count. I’m trying to get this guy throwing strikes and getting ahead, putting guys away quick.”
On the offensive side of things, Jed Lowrie, who entered the game leading the Majors in hits (32) and RBI (22), delivered for the A’s again in the bottom of the first inning. With Marcus Semien on second, Lowrie shot a ball into the left-center gap for a one-out RBI double. The A’s added to their lead in the bottom of the third inning. After a base hit by Semien, Stephen Piscotty drove him home with an RBI double into the right-center gap. The double was his sixth of 2018.
Semien provided the Athletics with another run in the bottom of the fifth inning. With the count 1-and-1 he hit a 91 MPH fastball out into the left-field bleachers for a solo home run. It was Semien’s second homer of the season. He also accounted for all of the runs scored by the A’s.
Despite being overshadowed by Manaea’s masterpiece, Boston’s starter Chris Sale also pitched well. In seven innings of work, he allowed three runs on six hits, along with one walk to go with 10 strikeouts. Saturday marked the first outing for Sale in 2018 where he allowed more than one run to score.
Boston’s offense came into the game leading the league in batting average (.282), RBIs (116), runs (123) and on-base percentage (.350), but the team could only muster two walks against Manaea. The Red Sox had gone 3,987 games since last being no-hit in 1993, which was the second longest active streak in baseball. The A’s currently own the longest active streak without being no-hit (4,242 games).
The A’s and the Red Sox finish off their three-game series with the rubber game slated for 1:05 p.m. on Sunday at the Oakland Coliseum. Daniel Mengden (2-2, 4.50) takes the mound for the Athletics. He’s coming off his best outing of the season, where he earned the win with eight innings of work, giving up one run on six hits, allowing one walk to go along with six strikeouts. Opposing Mengden is Red Sox lefty David Price (2-1, 2.25), who will make his fifth start of the season.
Manaea became the 12th pitcher in Athletics’ history to throw a no-hitter. The other 11 include: Weldon Henley, Chief Bender, Joe Bush, Dick Fowler, Bill McCahan, Catfish Hunter (perfect game), Vida Blue, a combined no-hitter (Vida Blue, Glenn Abbot, Paul Lindblad and Catfish Hunter), Mike Warren, Dave Stewart and Braden (perfect game).
Before today’s game, the Athletics optioned reliever Josh Lucas to triple-A Nashville and reinstated reliever Yusmeiro Petit from the family medical emergency list. Petit missed three games while on the FMEL. In yesterday’s A’s and Red Sox game, Lucas pitched three innings, where he allowed no runs on two hits and a walk. Despite being sent down, Melvin had high praise for the 27-year-old right-hander. “I mean, three innings and 25 pitches, you don’t see that often,” Melvin said about Lucas’ outing on Friday. “The one time he did get into a little bit of a jam, he was able to keep the ball on the ground and get a double-play ball. First look was really good. I’d kind of be surprised if we didn’t see him again at some point.”
Paul Blackburn, who’s currently on the 60-day DL with a forearm strain, began throwing on Friday. “He finally feels better,” Melvin said before Saturday’s game. “It was lingering for a while, which you certainly don’t want to go out there and throw unless he feels good, but he feels that much better.” The starter developed the injury during Spring Training and has yet to pitch for the Athletics this season. Last season, Blackburn started 10 games. He sported a 3-1 record, 3.22 ERA and 22 strikeouts. “Until he gets on a mound, we’re not sure what the timetable is but I’m glad he’s throwing again,” Melvin said.
Before Saturday’s game, Melvin talked about the impact Lucroy has behind the plate for the A’s. Lucroy has thrown out seven base runners attempting to steal this season, which has him tied for the most in MLB. “You watch him throw and then you look at the clock, and it’s really good,” Melvin said. “It might not look like Pudge Rodriguez’s arm strength, but he gets rid of it really quickly, which in turn, we’ve seen a lot of guys thrown out.”