A's starter Manaea hopes to improve record vs. Mariners (Apr 15, 2018)

April 15, 2018

If there's a hard-luck loser in baseball so far this season, it's got to be Sean Manaea.

The Oakland Athletics' left-hander has a 1.74 ERA through three starts yet has a 1-2 record.

That's the lowest ERA of any starter with two losses. Next on the list, with a 1.89 ERA, is the Los Angeles Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw, a three-time National League Cy Young Award winner. At least Manaea is keeping good company.

The former first-round pick will get another chance Sunday afternoon, when the Athletics wrap up a three-game series at Seattle's Safeco Field.

"Mental stuff and everything like that, I tell myself everything is gonna be all right," Manaea said after his last outing. "That's how I've kind of been dealing with things. Not taking it way too seriously and thinking that's gonna be the end. You just gotta go out there and keep pitching."

In his first start this season, Manaea allowed one run on four hits in 7 2/3 innings of a 2-1 loss to the Los Angeles Angels. He didn't walk a batter and struck out seven.

He beat the Texas Rangers in his next start, giving up one run on three hits in eight innings, with one walk and four strikeouts.

Against the Dodgers on Tuesday, Manaea allowed solo home runs to the first two batters he faced -- the only runs he gave up in five innings of a 4-0 loss. He allowed seven hits, walked one and struck out five.

"We got burned real quick by those first two hitters and we couldn't really do anything offensively," Athletics catcher Jonathan Lucroy said. "It was a tough night."

Manaea won't have an easy assignment Sunday, especially facing the top of the Mariners' batting order.

Dee Gordon, Jean Segura and Robinson Cano, Seattle's Nos. 1-3 hitters, have combined to hit .364. Cano is second in the American League with a .405 batting average.

"The top of our order has been really, really good," Mariners manager Scott Servais said. "They've been driving the train, so to speak, and we're going to need them to continue to do that."

The Mariners got a boost Saturday when designated hitter Nelson Cruz, who had been out with a sprained right ankle since the second game of the season, was activated from the 10-day disabled list. Cruz led the AL in RBIs last season.

Mitch Haniger filled in for Cruz in the cleanup spot and is tied for the league lead with 15 RBIs. He had four Friday, including a go-ahead, three-run homer in the seventh inning as the Mariners won the series opener, 7-4. He also homered Saturday and drove in three more runs as Seattle won 10-8.

"Nobody can replace Nelson Cruz," Haniger said. "But I think everybody is doing a good job of just sticking together and trying to grind at-bats and be tough outs and that's the key for us. He's going to hit his home runs and get his RBIs and we're looking forward to having him back."

Manaea, who is 3-3 with a 4.32 ERA in seven career starts against the Mariners, is scheduled to be opposed by longtime Seattle ace Felix Hernandez (2-1, 6.60 ERA).

Hernandez held the Cleveland Indians scoreless for 5 1/3 in the season opener but was battered for eight runs in four innings of his next start, a 10-1 loss at San Francisco. He got a victory Tuesday in Kansas City in which he allowed three runs on six hits in 5 2/3 innings.

"It was really important to me," Hernandez said of rebounding from the Giant defeat.

Hernandez is 25-9 with a 2.60 ERA in 43 career starts against the A's, his greatest number of victories against any opponent.