CLEVELAND (92.3 the Fan) – The scoreboard read 3-1 at Progressive Field on Wednesday night following the park’s shortest game of 2017. It should have read 2-1.
Regardless, the Indians would have lost, but the pitcher’s duel ultimately boiled down to Mike Clevinger making two mistakes, and A’s starter Sean Manaea making one.
Of the game’s nine hits, six were moot, with three home runs and a walk providing the runs. Manaea won with just the one home run to his name.
Francisco Lindor turned a slider low-and-away into his 12th home run, all in all a fine pitch from Oakland’s young lefty that might have caught just a bit too much of the plate.
Manaea did not have to do much to keep Indians hitters off-balance, feeding them a diet of mostly fastballs and changeups. The lefty threw 48 four-seamers at an average speed of 92.6 mph, with 35 changeups at 84.9 mph, and mixed in 16 sliders.
The 25-year old was surgical when pulling the string, pounding the knees with his off-speed stuff so often that when it trickled below the zone, he garnered swings. Of the 35 changes Manaea threw, 19 were strikes, 8 of them swinging.
The outing was more of a departure to Manaea’s breakout rookie season than what he has done in his first eight starts of 2017.
The lefty was almost exclusively fastball (58.1%) and changeup (28.0%) in 2016, with his slider raising from 13.8 percent to 20.4 percent in 2017.
Though his fastball was good again on Wednesday, contrary to its -9.2 value in 2016 and more similar to its 2.0 value in 2017, the changeup was his still his best pitch. In 2017, the pitch has a -1.2 value, but was his best pitch a year ago at 9.4.
The lone man to do damage, Lindor, said there may have been issues getting comfortable at the plate.
“He was moving the ball. He was locating. And his delivery was a little [funky],” the shortstop said of Manaea. “He can get you off your timing. Like I said, he had a plan and he executed. He beat us today.”
Manager Terry Francona mentioned the odd delivery of the six-foot-five Manaea as well.
“He’s kind of across his body with fastball, he’s got some run,” the Manager said. “Kind of got a funky arm slot. And then changeup, breaking ball. And you know what, he pitched really good. We had a hard time getting the hitting going.”
For Clevinger, however, his night simply boiled down to two bad pitches, unless you include the four balls to Trevor Plouffe immediately before shortstop Chad Pinder’s game-winning home run in the 5th.
The 25-year old who came into the day with five career home runs ended up going deep twice on two slightly elevated breaking balls from Clevinger. That was all it took on a day were the A’s pitcher had everything going.
“The first one was a slider. The second one was a curveball. Both ended up in the exact same spot,” Clevinger said. “I felt good. I felt strong. They just capitalized on those mistakes and did damage with it.
“But also, just trying to finish those off-speed pitches and not leave them inside, we’re having a different conversation right now.”