Right-hander Mike Fiers will attempt to add a 24th team to his career win list Sunday afternoon when he pitches for the visiting Oakland Athletics in the finale of their remarkable three-game interleague series with the rival San Francisco Giants.
If form holds, Fiers will fall behind in the middle of the game, and his teammates will rescue him with a hard-to-imagine, ninth-inning rally.
That’s exactly what happened to the A’s first two starting pitchers in the series — Jesus Luzardo and Sean Manaea — who were long gone before teammates provided the late-night fireworks in San Francisco.
One night after Stephen Piscotty’s grand slam capped a five-run ninth that sent the game into extra innings — where the A’s prevailed 8-7 — Mark Canha’s two-out, two-strike, three-run homer completed a four-run ninth that sent Oakland to a 7-6 win on Saturday.
On both occasions, Giants closer Trevor Gott was on the mound during the ninth-inning collapse.
Veteran starter Johnny Cueto, who stood to win Friday’s game before the late meltdown, said nobody in the San Francisco clubhouse is pointing any fingers at the team’s closer.
“That’s baseball,” Cueto said. “You want things to go your way, but when they don’t, you just move forward.”
The A’s have no such issues with their closer. Liam Hendriks has saved both wins in the series, giving him seven already this season, including throwing a 1-2-3 bottom of the 10th with all strikeouts on Friday after the new extra-inning rules placed a Giant on second base to start the inning.
“You’ll see certain pitchers start out slower than others after an abbreviated camp. We were seeing 94-95 mph first time out. Saw some 98’s (Friday) night,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said of Hendriks before Saturday’s game. “In that situation, there’s certainly some adrenaline going when you come in with a man on second base and a one-run lead. It’s not your normal save.
“The intensity is there right away, and it certainly looked like it for him. To strike out three guys in the fashion that he did was impressive.”
For the third straight day, Oakland will be pushing a starting pitcher up a day in the series finale because of the back tightness suffered by Friday’s scheduled starter, Frankie Montas.
Fiers (1-1, 6.86 ERA) nonetheless will be pitching on four days’ rest, having gone just 3 2/3 innings, roughed up for five runs, in a road loss to the Los Angeles Angels on Tuesday.
He is scheduled to be opposed by Giants rookie right-hander Logan Webb (1-1, 2.81).
Fiers, who pitched previously for Milwaukee, Houston and Detroit, has beaten every team in the American League in his career. The only clubs missing from his National League victims are the Giants, New York Mets, Atlanta, Colorado, Philadelphia, San Diego and one of his previous employers, the Brewers.
The 35-year-old has gotten four previous shots at the Giants, three as a starter. He’s gone 0-3 with a 3.72 ERA in those games, including 0-2 with a 3.46 ERA in San Francisco.
He hasn’t faced the Giants since 2015, when he was with Milwaukee.
The A’s have supported their pitchers with six homers in the first two games of the series, including two by Olson and the dramatic ninth-inning shots by Piscotty and Canha.
The Giants have countered with homers from Evan Longoria, Hunter Pence, Darin Ruf and Mike Yastrzemski, who also circled the bases “Little League style” when he kept right on running after a Semien throwing error in Saturday’s game that occurred during his triple.
Webb will be making his fifth start of the season. He saw the A’s in his second career appearance last August, serving up two homers to Canha but helping the Giants record a 5-4 home win.
Still considered a rookie, he has yet to see the sixth inning in any start this season.
–Field Level Media