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Fiers-bullpenning trial run a failure in A’s loss

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Mike Fiers has heard talk that he could come out of the bullpen in the Wild Card game against the Yankees next Wednesday.

If that is the case, he knows he’ll have to pitch better than he did in Friday’s 8-5 loss to the Angels at Angel Stadium. Fiers (L, 12-8, 3.56 ERA) took the ball for the A’s in the second inning after Lou Trivino opened the game and was subsequently blasted by the Angels (79-81) for six runs on seven hits.

This story has been updated with quotes and post-game material from the A’s clubhouse at Angel Stadium.

If Friday served as a trial run for the big game next week, then it didn’t work. Fiers said:

“This was one of the games that was like a feeler, and kind of, ‘Hey, this is what we’re going to do,’ so, you’ve got to be ready for it on Wednesday.”

Manager Bob Melvin said before the game he was keeping all options on the table for Wednesday’s one-game playoff against the Yankees. If Fiers were to pitch on regular rest, he would be in line to be on the mound at Yankee Stadium, whether it be starting in the first or second inning.

And if Friday was a trial run, and Trivino were to get the ball to open against the Yankees, he would be ready:

“If they want me to be a batboy, I’ll do whatever it takes for this team to win. Whatever role that is, I’m down.”

He looked ready on Friday. Trivino, the “starter,” did his job, throwing a 1-2-3 first inning on 11 pitches. After dealing with a stiff neck for two days, posting an ERA of 8.66 over his last 22 games and allowing seven runs combined in his last two outings (2/3 innings pitched), Trivino breathed a sigh of relief with a clean first inning:

“After the last two before that, it felt really good to be able to execute the pitches I need to do. The fastball felt good. Good action on a lot of the pitches. If I can keep that up and it carries over to the postseason, that would be amazing.”

But Fiers, tasked with Shohei Ohtani as his first batter in the second, was in trouble from the start. Ohtani — who was 3-for-3 with two RBIs — singled and scored, and a two-run blast (5) by Taylor Ward later in the inning put the Angels ahead 3-0.

Mike Trout tacked on another two-run homer (39) in the third as Fiers never settled down. He departed after 3.1 innings, allowing six runs on seven hits. It was the most runs Fiers has allowed since being acquired by the A’s in August – he entered the night with a 5-1 record and a 2.90 ERA in nine starts with Oakland.

Melvin said of Fiers:

“Normally, when he elevates, he gets it a little higher than maybe he did tonight. It was down, it was more mid-thigh, so it was not his best night. They had some very good swings on him.”

In an 8-0 hole after seven innings, the A’s did make the game interesting with a five-run eighth inning — which included three unearned runs — when they sent nine men to the plate. Melvin said:

“Sometimes after an off-day, our at-bats aren’t the best early on. We seem to respond a little bit later and we did we a little bit later in the game. Good to see us getting good at-bats late.”

Playoff Watch

With the Yankees’ 11-6 win over the Red Sox on Friday, New York clinched home field advantage against the A’s in the American League Wild Card Game next Wednesday. If the A’s are to advance to play the Red Sox in the ALDS, they’ll have to beat the Yankees on the road.

The A’s were aware of their fate before Friday’s loss. Melvin said:

“Everybody knew going in that we were going to go to New York. I don’t use that as an excuse.”

Up Next

Trevor Cahill (6-4, 3.91 ERA) will start on Saturday for the A’s, while Tyler Skaggs (8-9, 3.91 ERA) will take the mound for the Angels. 

Notes

The A’s fall to 7-7 over their last 14 games. … Fiers made his 31st start of the season; his career high was 30 in 2015 and 2016. … The A’s now have a losing record (8-9) against the Angels this season. … Melvin declined to comment before the game about reports that he intends to speak with A’s brass after the season regarding a new contract. Melvin, who has one year left on his deal, said:

“We’ve got a lot going on and a lot more important things than my contract situation, so if that comes up at the end of the year, then it does. We’re focusing on the Wild Card Game.”

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