Athletics’ Manaea tries to tame Mariners again

The last time the Seattle Mariners faced Sean Manaea, it sent them into a tailspin.

Of course, that happened to a lot of Manaea’s opponents in April.

Manaea (4-2, 1.03 ERA) was named the American League’s Pitcher of the Month on Tuesday. He has the lowest opponents batting average against (.134), on-base percentage (.178) and OPS (.400) in the major leagues.

“It’s definitely not easy,” Manaea said after his last start, an 8-1 victory against the defending World Series champion Houston Astros. “Just putting in the work and trying to be as prepared as best as I can. Whenever you can get things going on a roll and have some success, it makes the little things a bit easier. But it’s still hard just trying to think about what you want to do and be prepared.”

He’s scheduled to face the Mariners again Thursday night when the teams wrap up a three-game series at Safeco Field. The teams have split the first two games.

“Boy, I don’t know where we’d be without him at this point,” Athletics manager Bob Melvin said of Manaea, who also pitched a no-hitter against the Boston Red Sox. “Saves the bullpen, has pitched great, won games for us. He’s had a heck of an April for us for sure.”

In an April 15 start in Seattle, the left-hander allowed one run on two hits in seven innings of a 2-1 victory, snapping the Mariners’ four-game winning streak.

“Give Manaea credit, he threw the ball really well,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said after that game. “Our offense has been doing so, so good. You don’t expect that type of game. But that’s baseball and the beauty of it. We didn’t have a lot of scoring chances.”

The Mariners went on to drop three of four games to the Astros, the only series they’ve lost this season. Seattle scored just four runs in that series, a hangover after facing Manaea.

Manaea is 4-3 with a 3.88 ERA in eight career starts against the Mariners.

He’ll be countered by Seattle left-hander Wade LeBlanc (0-0, 4.61 ERA), who will be making his first start since Aug. 19, 2016, in a previous stint with the Mariners.

The 33-year-old was traded three weeks later to Pittsburgh and made 50 relief appearances for the Pirates last season. He went to spring training with the New York Yankees this year, but was released and re-signed by Seattle.

LeBlanc is 2-0 with a 4.98 ERA in five career appearances (three starts) against Oakland. He last faced the A’s on Aug. 14, 2016, with the Mariners, allowing three runs on five hits in six innings, with seven strikeouts in an 8-4 victory.

LeBlanc seems to understand his role.

“Maybe a guy with better stuff (like Manaea) can kind of work through a game,” LeBlanc said. “But I got to attack hitters the first at-bat and kind of go off of that. Don’t beat yourself. A guy like me cannot beat myself.”

Servais said this might not be just a spot start for LeBlanc, as the Mariners have been juggling their fifth starter. Right-hander Erasmo Ramirez is on the 10-day disabled list with a right shoulder strain and lefty Ariel Miranda is with Triple-A Tacoma.

“There’s definitely potential for him to extend it and give him some time and let it play out,” Servais said. “We’re not looking for Wade to throw 100 pitches out there, but hopefully he gives us four to five really competitive innings and we can go from there. Wade is certainly capable of doing that. … There’s definitely potential for him to make more than just one spot start.”