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Fiers’ shortest career start sets tone for loss

A's allow seven homers to Astros: 'Started off on the wrong foot and never got back'
@MartinJGallegos
September 10, 2019

HOUSTON -- The A’s have mastered the ability to quickly put a bad loss in the rearview mirror. That skill will certainly need to be employed after what transpired Monday night. Mike Fiers was roughed up by the Astros, and Oakland’s offense went cold against Zack Greinke in an ugly

HOUSTON -- The A’s have mastered the ability to quickly put a bad loss in the rearview mirror. That skill will certainly need to be employed after what transpired Monday night.

Mike Fiers was roughed up by the Astros, and Oakland’s offense went cold against Zack Greinke in an ugly 15-0 loss at Minute Maid Park.

Box score

Fiers surrendered a career-high nine runs on nine hits in what turned out to be the shortest start of his career, lasting just one-plus innings before Michael Brantley’s solo blast in the second knocked him out of the game.

The type of season Fiers has put together has positioned him as the likely option to start a potential Wild Card game for the A’s, who maintained hold of the second American League Wild Card spot after Monday’s loss. The right-hander has fared well against most opponents, but in five starts against Houston this year, Fiers went winless with an ERA of 8.63.

“They’re a very good team and I didn’t make the pitches I needed to make. That’s what happens when you don’t make them,” Fiers said. “They weren’t missing any mistakes. I have to figure out how to pitch to them because this is the team we need to beat. If we get to the World Series, we’ll have to play them at some point, and we know that.”

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Entering the night with a chance to etch his name in A’s history, as his 21-start unbeaten streak was tied with Hall of Famer Lefty Grove for the longest such streak in franchise history, Fiers lost out on that chance early and was charged with his first loss since his May 1 outing at Fenway Park.

The only history made on Monday came at the expense of Fiers, whose career-high five home runs served up contributed to Houston’s total of six through the game’s first two innings, marking the first time a club has hit six home runs through the first two innings of a game in MLB history. The 15 runs were also the most given up by A’s pitchers in a game this season.

“He missed his spots a few times, and they’re a home run-hitting club. It’s amazing how many runs they’ve scored the last two nights,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said of the Astros, who set a franchise record for runs scored over a two-game span with 36. “They got on him early and he didn’t have an answer for that. But it’s been an incredible run he’s been on.”

With Monday’s start his 30th on the season, Fiers is on pace to surpass career highs in games started and innings pitched. Given how late it is in the season, Fiers could have used fatigue as justification for his poor outing, but he said there was no excuse.

“I felt great before the game. I just have to laugh about it,” Fiers said. “It’s one of those games where you just feel like they were on everything you threw. I’m gonna put this behind me pretty quick.

“I got our team behind pretty quick and let them down. You can’t give up that many runs and expect your team to come back. Started off on the wrong foot and never got back.”

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An 11-0 deficit after two frames would have been far too much for even a potent offense like Oakland’s to overcome on a regular night, but the challenge was only exacerbated with one of the game’s best pitchers on the mound for Houston. A’s batters were flustered by Greinke through six scoreless innings en route to being shut out for just the third time this season and the first time since May 9 against the Reds.

On a night seemingly devoid of positives, Melvin was able to locate one silver lining in the rest he was able to provide to some of his overworked stars who are responsible for keeping the A’s in a playoff race. Matt Chapman, Marcus Semien and Matt Olson were provided breathers when they were removed from the game in the bottom of the fourth, as was Mark Canha in the fifth.

“I hate taking guys out that early in a game, but we’ve had guys with workloads that are pretty extreme,” Melvin said. “It allowed us to get some guys out that have been playing every single day, and as hard as they play, give them a little bit of a blow.”

Martin Gallegos covers the A's for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @MartinJGallegos.