Fiers rebounds from injury with statement game

Right-hander goes eight strong to lead shutout of Texas

September 21st, 2019

OAKLAND -- Once the A’s switched their focus to capturing an American League Wild Card spot at the beginning of September, had established himself as the odds-on favorite to start that potential playoff game, given his overall body of work this season.

Fiers went through a historic stretch of 21 consecutive starts without a loss, which tied Hall of Famer Lefty Grove for the longest such streak in franchise history, but his recent outings gave Oakland cause for concern as he entered the night with an 18.78 ERA over his last three starts.

Looking for a bounce back, Fiers returned to form against the Rangers on Friday night, facing the minimum over eight scoreless innings in an 8-0 victory at the Coliseum. The win kept the A’s two games ahead of the Rays and Indians for the AL Wild Card lead.

“Last couple of starts have been not ideal and getting late into September here, I kind of had a bad September, so I needed to get the ball rolling and come back healthy,” Fiers said. “I’m just happy to be healthy and go back out and battle for the team.”

Outside of his no-hitter against the Reds on May 7, which was celebrated at the Coliseum Friday night with a bobblehead giveaway, Fiers pitched as well as he has all year. After giving up a hard single that was smoked 105.5 mph off the bat of Shin-soo Choo on the first pitch of the game, the right-hander limited Texas to just two hits and pounded the zone with 65 of 95 pitches thrown for strikes -- he did not issue a walk.

The start was a polar opposite of his outing against the Rangers last Saturday in Arlington, erasing worries from an injury scare after Fiers was tagged for three runs before getting pulled with just two outs in the second inning due to right arm nerve irritation.

“He was executing his pitches. He didn’t pitch much against us the last time out, he got hurt. We did a good job of putting runs on the board early. ... Tonight I thought we were going to do the same,” Rangers manager Chris Woodward said. “He’s thrown a couple of no-hitters. He’s either really on or really not, we got the really on version tonight. It seemed like he was 0-1 on every hitter, dotting the corners, doing all the things he does when he is pitching well.”

With only eight games remaining in the regular season, Fiers capped off what was a stellar 2019 at home. In 17 starts at the Coliseum, Fiers finished the year 9-2 with a 2.90 ERA.

“I like pitching here,” Fiers said. “I feel comfortable and the weather is great. It just feels like home. I think the confidence here is just a little bit higher. I love it here.”

“It’s a really good ballpark for him,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “When he’s got all his pitches going like he did tonight, his slider and his changeup with his fastball and curveball, he’s a tough guy to deal with. He’s led the way the entire season. It was great that in front of a pretty good home crowd, he could finish up the way he wanted to.”

Though Fiers’ 2019 regular season at the Coliseum is in the books, this might not be the last time he pitches there this season. As it stands now, the A’s would host the AL Wild Card Game. It will be a tough decision for Melvin to decide who potentially starts that game with the way the A’s rotation is going. Starters entered the day with a combined record of 13-1 going back to Aug. 20, with Fiers having been charged with the only loss over that time.

Would Fiers want the ball for that pivotal game?

“Yeah. Of course,” Fiers said. “My last three starts weren’t ideal, so I wanted to show these guys I’ve still got it. When you have those starts of only going one inning in back-to-back games, it’s just a bad look. Everyone else in the rotation is throwing well, so coming out today I needed to make a statement.

“Everyone wants to make it tough on Bob to choose what plan they want to go with. But we’re only two games up on Tampa and Cleveland, so everyone is just trying to win, not show each other up.”

A’s get to Minor ... again

Mike Minor is putting together a season worthy of AL Cy Young Award consideration, but you wouldn’t know it based on the games he’s pitched against the A’s. After homers by Chad Pinder and Mark Canha helped contribute to six runs over five innings, Oakland is now 3-0 this year against Minor, handing the lefty more losses than any other club in baseball. The A’s also busted the game open against Minor in Texas last Saturday with seven runs over five innings.

“You look at the games that he’s pitched, and we’re really the only team that has beaten him up a little bit the last two times out,” Melvin said. “His numbers are very indicative of the way he’s pitched, and he pitches in a tough ballpark for pitchers. We’ve been fortunate enough to score some runs off him the last couple of times out.”