Sean Mano-no

The way the Red Sox broke out of the chute to open the season, you might have thought the chances of beating them with a no-hitter were two: slim, and none. Especially if you had thoughts that a) it had been a full quarter century since the last time the Red Sox were no-hit; and, b) it could be done against Chris Sale, arguably the best starting pitcher in the game this season thus far.

Someone didn't trouble to tell either Sean Manaea or the Athletics. But there he was, out-pitching Sale and beating the team with baseball's best record through this writing, the first time the Red Sox were no-hit since the Mariners' Chris Bosio brought it off in 1993. The final score was 3-0, with Hanley Ramirez grounding out to finish the jewel.

For the A's, it's probably a good thing they didn't. It's probably also a good thing nobody told their left-hander that only two previous pitchers had ever thrown no-hitters at the Red Sox with ten or more strikeouts while they were at it, and both are in the Hall of Fame: Walter Johnson, who struck out ten doing it in 1920; and, Jim Bunning, striking out 12 doing it in 1958.

It may also be a good thing that nobody told Manaea only two Athletics pitchers have ever struck out more than he did Saturday in throwing no-hitters. Dave Stewart struck out twelve on 29 June 1990, and Hall of Famer Catfish Hunter struck out 11 on May 8, 1968.

Manaea's no-hitter was the first for an A's pitcher since ill-fated Dallas Braden's perfect game on Mother's Day against the Rays in 2010. It pulled the A's to within a game of .500 in an American League West where the stories otherwise are the defending world champion Astros playing like defending world champions with the Los Angeles Angels a half game from having their teeth on the Astros' heels.

Twice along the way Manaea thought his gem in the making was turned back to coal. Once was in the fifth, when his shortstop Marcus Semien ambled out to shallow center field aiming for an over-the-shoulder, wide receiver-like catch on Red Sox catcher Sandy Leon's popup. The ball landed in his glove and bounded out of it almost in the same instant. It took another inning or so before Manaea realized it was ruled an error.

Semien ambled out as center fielder Mark Canha ran in toward the ball. "I was running back," Semien said after the game, "and I heard Canha was yelling, 'Marcus, Marcus,' and I thought he said, 'I got it.' But I still think I should've caught the ball. Usually I don't want to make errors, but in that situation you take the error."

An inning later came what the Red Sox might still think the key play. Andrew Benintendi grounded one to the first base side and tried eluding Oakland first baseman Matt Olson's tag. At first Benintendi was ruled safe. But the umpires conferred and nailed the right call: Benintendi had stepped just enough past the proper baseline, his foot hitting the foul territory grass, and they ruled him out.

Benintendi demurred. "It's just a missed call," he said flatly after the game. "I think if we have 10 hits at that point, that's a single. But the situation the game was in, they might have been searching for something and they found it." You can search all you want, in every replay of that play, and you'll still find Benintendi's foot hitting the foul grass.

Umpire crew chief Brian Gorman would agree with you. "When a fielder fields a ball and he attempts to tag a runner," Gorman said after the game, "the runner can go forward to the base or back to the base, but can't go side to side. He has three feet either way. So if he goes more than three feet avoiding the tag, he's declared out for being out of his baseline."

Manaea got rid of 14 consecutive Red Sox after he walked Mookie Betts to start the game. Betts himself almost ruined it in the ninth when he hit one to the right field track that Stephen Piscotty ran down for a catch. Benintendi drew a 2-out walk, before Ramirez cued one easily enough to Semien that the shortstop could end the game forcing Benintendi at second.

It was a sweet moment in the sweet spot of time for a pitcher who became an Athletic in the first place when the Royals, en route their eventual World Series triumph, traded him for utilityman Ben Zobrist in July 2015.

"I've caught a lot of great pitchers in this game," said his catcher, Jonathan Lucroy, who's caught the like of Zack Greinke and Hall of Famer Trevor Hoffman during his career. "I have eight years in. And that was the most well-pitched, well-executed game I've ever had behind the plate. I mean, [the Red Sox] were all messed over there. They had no idea."

Only one team has gone longer than the Red Sox went without being no-hit before Manaea pinned them: the A's themselves. Manaea also broke an eight-game Red Sox winning streak, the second-longest such streak to be ended with a no-hitter. The longest? Hark back to prehistoric days, when Larry Corcoran of the Chicago White Stockings (the future Cubs) broke the Providence Grays' 10-game winning streak with a no-no in 1884.

Manaea and Sale each struck out 10 hitters. That was the only equivalence between them Saturday. The A's struck early when Jed Lowrie doubled home Semien in the first, then Semien scored their second run two innings later when Piscotty doubled him home, before Semien decided it was time he helped his own sweet self home in the fifth with a shot over the left center field fence.

You felt sorry for Sale even knowing the other guy was pinning your team back with a no-hitter. He has a 1.86 earned run average and a 0.96 walks/hits per inning pitched rate, not to mention 41 strikeouts in 29 innings pitched and a 1.84 fielding-independent pitching rate.

Some speak of his lack of run support, and he has worked a few games in which he could have taken his mates to court for non-support. His season's average run support is 4.79, but that's deceptive — he's only had two of five starts so far in which he had more than one run to work with, and one of them was that 14-1 blowout of the Yankees.

None of which mattered Saturday. The not-so-hard-throwing Manaea, who's overcome shoulder issues, and who has a solid changeup and a see-you-later slider, found ways to manhandle a team that led the American League in runs, team batting average, team on-base and slugging percentages, and OPS, while being third in the league in dialing long distance.

He'd been good if not necessarily spectacular in his career until Saturday. For at least one day he was embraced by greatness. Nobody can take that away.

Manaea was wholly entitled to stand for an interview with Dallas Braden himself, now working for NBC Sports California, with a Dubble Bubble bucket plopped on his head after a shaving cream and Gatorade shower to crown his jewel. It gives Manaea another precedent, we think — the first pitcher to throw a no-hitter and stand for a postgame interview with the last man to throw one for his team.

Braden probably hopes Manaea's career doesn't end up the way his did, with a shredded left shoulder after only five major league seasons.

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