Though the Tigers eventually dropped an 8-6 decision to the A’s in the rubber match of their three-game series at Comerica Park, they made a contest out of a potential runaway. What looked like a potential game for Harold Castro to pitch instead ended up with Castro stepping to the plate in the seventh inning as the potential tying run.
Castro, whose 447-foot home run to the center-field shrubs put the Tigers on the board in the fifth inning, gave an Andrew Chafin slider a drive to deep left in the seventh, sending A’s left fielder Tony Kemp to ground to make a sliding catch.
Still, the close call did little to dampen Manning’s frustration. If anything, it left him to wonder what the Tigers could’ve done with a more effective start from him.
As Manning headed back to the dugout bench following a 32-pitch, four-run first inning that included back-to-back home runs, he flung his glove at the dugout wall, clearly irritated at an inning that got away from him with two outs. He had an 0-2 count on Matt Chapman but threw his next five pitches out of the strike zone, one of which Chapman fouled off to extend the at-bat for ball four before Jed Lowrie’s three-run homer and Mark Canha’s solo shot put Oakland in command.
Manning stayed in the game and got a lot of leeway from manager A.J. Hinch to work through his struggles and learn some lessons to help him for the long term. But after back-to-back two-out singles in the fourth inning threatened to extend a seven-run lead, Hinch pulled Manning at 80 pitches. When Manning went back to the clubhouse after the inning ended, he chucked his glove down the steps ahead of him.
Manning did put his glove to more productive use, snaring a Lowrie line drive just to his left. But far more often, the A’s left Manning turning to watch where their drives landed.
Manning has shown his frustration at other times in his rookie season, throwing his glove at the dugout wall in Cleveland after a four-run third inning. On Thursday, however, the A’s flustered him pretty much all afternoon. When they weren’t punishing his pitches over the plate, they were fouling off pitches he thought might garner some badly needed swings and misses. Josh Harrison fouled off seven consecutive pitches ahead of his second-inning flyout, leaving Manning visibly frustrated.
Oakland swung and missed at just three Manning pitches all afternoon, but fouled off 23 others. His slider drew five called strikes but only one whiff.
By contrast, Canha checked his swing on a 3-2 slider just above the strike zone, drawing a second-inning walk and an angry stab by Manning at the throw back from catcher Eric Haase. Tony Kemp sent Manning’s next pitch through the middle for a single before Yan Gomes doubled them both in on an 0-2 slider that was just off the plate. It was a rare successful chase pitch from Manning, but Gomes actually connected.
Manning’s frustration was understandable coming off six innings of one-run ball against the Blue Jays in his previous start last weekend. He had thrown generally effective innings since his Aug. 6 debacle in Cleveland, highlighted by a bump in his fastball velocity. He threw nine consecutive fastballs to start Wednesday’s game, striking out Josh Harrison and going to a 3-2 count on Starling Marte before going to a high slider for a walk.
Manning is slated to start next week in Pittsburgh, which should be an opportunity for him to rebound. Still, the stretch sums up a rookie season in which the former first-round pick and top prospect has struggled to turn flashes of potential into more consistency.