Less than three weeks ago, the Athletics and manager Bob Melvin would have paid any amount to have a starter get through six innings.
Looking for that type of guy, Oakland acquired Mike Fiers who has done exactly that more times than not this season.
Making his second start in green and gold Tuesday, Fiers was a question mark leading up to the game with discomfort in upper glute. After checking on his right-hander, Melvin scrapped his backup lineup card that had Yusmeiro Petit starting and sent the scheduled starter to the mound. Fiers (W, 8-6, 3.38 ERA) responded scattering six hits and two run while striking out five over six strong to record his first win with the A’s (72-48).
In his support, Jed Lowrie stayed hot homering for the 100th time in his career to sink the Mariners, 3-2.
Melvin, who checked on Fiers in the bullpen during pregame, said he was concerned early, but that quickly subsided:
“He almost didn’t make the start. … The first couple innings I was a little worried about him, but he seemed to loosed up and get better as the game went along.”
Fiers himself was less concerned, saying that no one on the field is 100 percent at this point in the season, but it is nothing serious, he added:
“I just had a little muscle cramp in the top of my buttocks. Just had to stretch and get a little active warmup in and it went away.”
Normally a guy whose fastball nestles in at about 89 miles per hour on the speed gun, Fiers was firing early, topping out at 91 in the first and doing his part to calm the nerves of his new skipper.
But start No. 2 didn’t get going quite as smoothly the first six days ago, when he didn’t surrender his first hit until the fifth. The Mariners got on the board, following a leadoff double by Mitch Haniger, when Nelson Cruz blooped a single into shallow right, trapped by Stephen Piscotty’s sliding attempt to end the frame.
Fiers commanded control from there, never allowing more than one hit in any of his remaining five innings, though one of those hits was a fifth-inning solo homer (4) from Cameron Maybin.
This was the type of effort expected when Fiers was brought to Oakland. And for a guy who has now appeared in 164 regular season games spanning eight big league seasons, this is what he has been waiting to do:
“This is the spot I want to be in — I want to be on a team that’s winning and heading for the playoffs.”
While Marcus Semien got Seattle’s early run back with the second leadoff homer run (10) of his career — first this season — the go-ahead and eventual winner came the second time through the order for the A’s, from Lowrie.
It has been a special few days for Lowrie. He collected career hit No. 1,000 Sunday in Los Angeles, and after knocking in four runs Monday, he launched career homer No. 100 Tuesday. All this after falling to his lowest batting average (.265) since early April following an 0-for-3 effort on Aug. 7. Since he has 10-for-25 (.400) with two homers and eight RBIs, pushing his season total to a career-best 76.
“He’s got some nice round numbers he’s accomplished here recently. … It was tough to hit it out tonight. It’s the lower-half that allows him to get the backspin and the carry on the ball.”
Semien said the same thing of his double-play partner, while Lowrie, with an ice wrap on his left knee, concurred. As his legs have recover from the wear and tear of a long season — made longer with his first ever All-Star Game appearance — Lowrie has begun to heat back up. And though he doesn’t like talking about his personal statistics, the 11-year veteran did acknowledge that his personal success has helped lead the A’s back into playoff position:
“That’s not lost on me, I know what I’ve done this year so far, I just want to continue to perform and help us win.”
Before his go-ahead homer in the third, Lowrie pushed his modest hitting streak to six when he hammered a line drive — more solidly hit than his home run, he said after the game — up the middle and off the left arm of Seattle ace James Paxton. Paxton (ND, 10-5, 3.68 ERA) was replaced with known A’s killer Félix Hernández.
Hernández (L, 8-11, 5.62 ERA) has struggled mightily all season, leading to a career-worst 5.73 ERA leading into Tuesday’s contest in which he made the first relief appearance of his 14-year career — after 398 starts. but aside from the Lowrie blast the former Cy Young winner was as stingy as he has been all season, surrendering five hits and two runs over 5-2/3 innings.
Still, with the A’s bullpen, which featured Ryan Buchter, Petit, Fernando Rodney and Blake Treinen (S, 32, 0.89 ERA) Tuesday night, the two runs were too much.
With their victory, and the Astros (73-47) losing for a fifth consecutive time, the A’s have not only added a game to their lead over Seattle for the second Wild Card — now 3-1/2 games — they are now just one game behind Houston for the division lead. Said Melvin:
“We’re just trying to win each game. … We know where we are in the division and until you’re out of it in the division you don’t think about the Wild Card, that’s always been our stance.”
The A’s are in the best position they have been in since the arrival of Semien, now the longest tenured member of the team, and they have done it by winning series’, something they have done 15 times out of their last 18 chances — they have also split two. Semien is content with continuing that success:
“We’re still in second place so we still have work to do. We’ve won this series, if we win the next I think we’ll be in first place.”
Brett Anderson (2-3, 4.53 ERA) looks for a sweep when he takes the mound for the A’s Wednesday afternoon. Seattle will counter with Mike Leake (8-7, 4.11 ERA).
The A’s announced the inaugural class of the Athletics Hall of Fame which will be honored with a pregame ceremony prior to a Sept. 5 matchup with the Yankees. Baseball Hall of Famers Dennis Eckersley, Rollie Fingers, Rickey Henderson, Catfish Hunter and Reggie Jackson are joined by Dave Stewart and Charlie Finley to make up that class. Team president Dave Kaval said in a press release:
“Our franchise is built on the history of legends. The Athletics Hall of Fame allows us to recognize the individuals who have shaped our identity and brought us success.”
A new class will be inducted annually and will be voted on by a committee, according to the team. … Seattle starter James Paxton, who was removed in the first inning after being hit by a batted ball, was diagnosed with a left arm contusion — X-rays done on-site were negative — he is listed as day-to-day. … With a walk in the second, Matt Chapman extended his league-leading on-base streak to 28 games. He added a double in the eighth.