Fiers outduels Kershaw, sets up win in A’s debut
Fiers (ND, 7-6, 3.40 ERA) fired four perfect frames, with eight strikeouts, before Yasmani Grandal got to a 90-mph 2-2 fastball up and out of the zone launching Los Angeles’ first hit of the night into the right field seats leading off the fifth. The righty was unable to finish the sixth in his Oakland introduction, but did enough to set the A’s (68-47) up for a victory over the Dodgers (63-52).
And as it has done all season, the offense made the most of its opportunity scoring its MLB-leading 217th run in the seventh inning or later on the strength of a Khris Davis RBI fielder’s choice in the eighth.
Manager Bob Melvin said, when speaking about FIers Tuesday, that the eight-year veteran has an established ability to work both up and down and in and out. The 33-year-old proved that talent given his first opportunity to pitch in front of his new fans. He hammered corners on both sides of the plate, and pitched effectively above the strike zone with the fastball and below with the curveball, just like the skipper said.
In the first inning alone, Fiers got swings and misses on heaters, with velocities ranging from 90 to 92, inside to a lefty, outside to a righty and above the hands.
The whiffs kept coming beyond the first. All told, Fiers coaxed 11 whiffs, six to finish at-bats, including seven with the fastball — a fastball that topped out at 92.
That all came facing the first 12 hitters though, and the worm began to turn for Fiers in the fifth.
Following the Grandal solo homer (20), Cody Bellinger sent a well-struck grounder into shallow right where it was fielded by a stumbling Marcus Semien — playing the 3-1/2 hole in the shift — who was unable to get the speedy Dodger center fielder. A Yasiel Puig drive to deep right was held up by the Bay Area’s heavy nighttime air and dropped into the glove of Stephen Piscotty at the warning track.
Fiers eventually escaped the fifth, stranding runners on first and third, but got just one more out and was pulled after a Manny Machado one-out double off the wall in left-center in the sixth.
Melvin put his big three bullpenners to the test early, going directly to Lou Trivino who stranded Machado.
Taking the ball for the Dodgers, Clayton Kershaw (ND, 5-5, 2.58 ERA) did more of what he has done for just about a decade, befuddling A’s hitters with his devastating combination of a low-90s fastball and a big slow hook — occasionally mixing in a mid-80s slider.
The 2014 National League MVP was victimized by a single Oakland uprising, initiated by a Davis grounder that found its way through the left side of the infield, about three steps from the standard shortstop position, with Los Angeles in the shift. The A’s collected four of the six hits surrendered by Kershaw in that fourth, including RBI knocks from Piscotty and Ramón Laureano.
Asked to get four or more outs for the 18th time this season, Trivino couldn’t hold the lead, allowing a pair of singles and a Dodger run in the seventh and letting Kershaw off the hook.
Jeurys Familia (W, 7-4, 2.31 ERA) continued his dominance since joining Oakland’s playoff hunt, striking out two in a perfect eighth and has now worked 10 scoreless innings as a member of the A’s.
JT Chargois (L, 2-3, 3.45 ERA) couldn’t match Familia’s eighth, allowing two hits. But the damning swing was an unlikely one from Davis who chopped a 2-2 slider to third and Machado’s decision to come home appeared to be the right one when Grandal slapped a tag on Marcus Semien sprinting in from third. But a quick reversal on the field came when home plate umpire Mike Muchlinski noticed the ball laying in the dirt, not in Grandal’s mitt.
Blake Treinen (S, 29, 0.93 ERA) evaded a one-out walk, leaving Puig at third to lock down the win.
The A’s get their third off-day in eight before continuing their playoff race in Los Angeles against the Angels (57-58). It is a short road trip though, as they will be back in Oakland Monday.