KANSAS CITY -- After learning what Seth Brown can do at the plate the previous night, the A’s found out the rookie can also play a little defense.
Playing in just his second Major League game, Brown provided a couple of defensive gems for the highlight reel in Oakland’s 2-1 victory over the Royals on Tuesday night at Kauffman Stadium. The win kept the A’s in sole possession of the second American League Wild Card.
“We expected him to hit,” manager Bob Melvin said of Brown, who smacked 37 home runs at Triple-A Las Vegas this season. “For a guy that’s predominantly played first base, to make a diving play like that in a huge outfield, and then a key throw at the plate, that gives us a little more knowledge on him. He’s not scared of anything.”
Brown’s first impressive moment came in the second when he laid out for a fly ball in left field to rob Cheslor Cuthbert of extra bases. The effort was much appreciated by A’s starter Mike Fiers, who lifted his right arm in the air and pointed his index finger directly at Brown in approval.
“Everyone around was doing everything they can to make plays,” Fiers said. “Brown makes that diving play in the gap, he’s been playing well for us up here.”
After showcasing his range, next came Brown’s arm in the third. A lined single to left by Whit Merrifield looked like it would give the Royals their first run of the game, but Brown charged in on the ball and fired a one-hopper to catcher Josh Phegley that nailed Meibrys Viloria at the plate as he tried to score from second.
“When I got the ground ball hit to me, I saw he was rounding third and knew I had a chance,” Brown said. “I just needed to keep it low and put it on line. Thankfully, I was able to do that.”
There aren’t many firsts left for Brown, who recorded his first Major League assist after notching his first hit and RBI as part of a two-hit night in Monday’s 19-4 rout of the Royals in the opener of a four-game set.
Brown’s run-saving effort was essential in helping Fiers notch his career-high 13th win of the season. The right-hander had to pitch around traffic most of the game with only one clean frame, but he still managed to limit the Royals to one run on eight hits and a walk while striking out five over 5 1/3 innings.
In a new era that presents more advanced metrics to evaluate the quality of a starting pitcher, wins might not carry the same weight to some like they once did. But the way Fiers has assembled his 13-3 record, with his ERA to 3.40, is truly remarkable given a poor first month of the season that saw his ERA balloon to 7.03 over his first seven outings.
“It’s even more impressive with what he did the first month to where he is right now,” Melvin said. “You talk about a run, it’s just been a consistent run since then. Every game he goes out, we feel we have a great chance to win. That’s what your lead starter does for you.”
Fiers might not carry the flashy stuff of a typical ace, but he gets the job done in other ways. His five pitches enable him to keep hitters off-balance, even if there isn’t one overpowering tool in his arsenal. His speeds ranged from 72.7 to 93.4 mph against the Royals, but it was all about his ability to mix them effectively.
“He’s a little funky. His delivery has a big tilt to him. His fastball plays up a little bit,” Merrifield said. “I know he’s not lighting up any radar guns, but it plays harder than it looks. His big, hard curveball is hard to stay back on. He does a good job. He’s been around a long time. He knows how to pitch.”
Fiers also joined some impressive company in what was his 11th straight win, tying Mark Mulder for the second-longest streak by an A’s pitcher. But Fiers isn’t one to gloat about his success, so naturally, he deflected the significance of the two feats onto his teammates.
“It says a lot to this team. Every day I go out there, these guys lay it out on the line for me, literally put their bodies on the line,” Fiers said. “It’s my job just to be ready every fifth day and I know they’ll show up for me.
“I’m happy to play with these guys. We keep it light in this clubhouse and out there on the field, everyone is having fun. There’s times where guys are on teams and don’t feel like they fit in. This is where I want to play. That’s why I came back. I love these guys here.”
The A’s did all of their scoring in the opening two innings with Chad Pinder’s bases-loaded walk in the first and Marcus Semien’s RBI single in the second. Having scored in each of the final eight innings of Monday’s blowout win, Oakland became the first club in MLB to score at least one run in 10 consecutive innings since the Red Sox in 2013. The previous A’s record for consecutive innings scored was nine, which they had last done on July 21-22, 1987.
“We score a couple of runs early and look like we have a chance to break it open, similar to last night, and it ends up a completely different game,” Melvin said. “Close games like that are where you need guys like Fiers. When he needed to make a pitch, he did.”