ARLINGTON -- The A's made more progress in their playoff push on Saturday with an 8-6 win over the Rangers at Globe Life Park, but this one came with a high price.
The A’s, who ended the contest with their half-game lead over the Rays in the American League Wild Card race intact, may have to navigate through portions of the late stages of the regular season, and possibly further, without one of their most reliable starters -- Mike Fiers. The right-hander exited his start against the Rangers with two outs in the second inning with right arm nerve irritation.
Fiers threw a first-pitch cutter to Rougned Odor, the fourth hitter he faced that inning, and “part of my hand went numb,” he said. Three pitches later, Odor launched a 437-foot homer -- per Statcast -- to the deepest part of right-center field.
This is not the first time Fiers has experienced this type of injury. He felt the numbness at least twice this year, and the sensation is alarming enough to him to know when to stop trying to pitch through it.
His velocity dropped several ticks while he faced his next batter, Delino DeShields, who walked. That’s when Fiers exited the game.
“I had to wait for some feeling to get back and it was more mental at that point than anything,” Fiers said. “Altering my delivery is something you don't want to do. You can get injured further doing that.”
Fiers was checked by head athletic trainer Nick Paparesta and manager Bob Melvin twice that inning before he was lifted. Fiers recorded two quick outs to open the second, but after he yielded a single to Danny Santana, he was called for a balk on a soft throw to first baseman Matt Olson. That prompted the first mound meeting.
“He just said he felt a little zinger down his arm, which he's felt before,” Melvin said. “He threw a couple pitches and seemed like he was OK. Then watching the [velocity] and kind of watching his body language, it just appeared to me that it's not something we wanted to mess around with.”
Fiers said he will be checked by doctors on Monday. There’s no guess at this point whether he’ll have to miss a start, or multiple starts.
“Hopefully this is something that works its way out,” Melvin said. “I guess there's the possibility he pitches his next time out if all is good. If not, then we'll figure something out.”
The prospect of losing Fiers, the team’s ace, for any period of time seems daunting, especially this time of the year. Prior to his disastrous outing in Houston on Monday, the right-hander was riding a 12-game winning streak and had held opponents to two runs or fewer in six of his past nine starts.
The A's have reinforcements, however. They’ve been utilizing a six-man rotation, and with the recent return of Sean Manaea and a strong showing by top pitching prospect Jesus Luzardo, the A’s should be able to compensate if they lose Fiers for a spell.
“We have some depth,” Melvin said. “It's a concern because it's our No. 1 guy. We hope everything works its way out here in the next couple of days.”
When the series with the Rangers began, it seemed unlikely that the A's would set the club single-season home run record while they were still in Arlington. Heading into Friday's game, they were 10 away from matching the 1996 team that holds the all-time mark with 243.
But the A's hit five homers Friday and four more Saturday, and suddenly, they’re one away from tying the record. They now own second place, having jumped ahead of the 2000 team that clubbed 239 homers.
Matt Chapman, who was given a day off on Friday, erased the A's 3-0 deficit with a game-tying homer off Mike Minor in the third inning. It was Chapman's 33rd homer of the year. Josh Phegley and Mark Canha each drilled two-run jacks in the fourth and fifth -- Nos. 12 and 24, respectively -- and Olson added a solo shot in the sixth, his 34th.
Olson has homered in three straight games for the first time since Sept. 2017, and five of his six hits over his past five games have been big flies. Chapman's homer set an A's franchise record for third basemen, surpassing Eric Chavez, who hit 32 in 2001.
Is there a home run race brewing between teammates?
"I'll gladly give him the title if he wants to keep doing what he's doing," Chapman said of Olson. "It's impressive."
Beard today, gone … today.
When Fiers took the mound for his start, he sported a new beard, and boy, did that grab everyone’s attention.
The beard was shaped like the number six, starting on one side as a full sideburn and wrapping around the bottom of his chin before making its final resting spot on his upper lip.
Fiers said he is the guy his teammates want to laugh at, and, with this being September, and the season getting really long, he thought he’d give them what they want -- chuckles.
“They dared me to do it,” Fiers said. “They didn't think I'd go out there and pitch with it. I didn't care.”
How did they find the design? They googled “funny beards,” and the picture popped up.
The beard lasted all of a few innings as Fiers was clean shaven after the game.
“I got hurt,” he said. “I can't continue that. Just had to shave that off.”