Photo credit: @Athletics
By: Lewis Rubman
Chicago White Sox: 1 | 10 | 1
Oakland Athletics: 5 |13 | 0
OAKLAND — For the third time this year, Mike Fiers took the mound for the A’s to open a segment of the season. He was trounced by Seattle in Tokyo in the season opener but came back eight days later to get the win against the Angels in Oakland’s first game of the campaign on American soil, although his performance on that occassion didn’t even rate as a quality start. His pitching picked up in May, including a no-hitter on the seventh, and, when Frankie Montás was suspended on June 21 for violating MLB’s drug policies, Fiers became the undisputed ace of the A’s pitching staff, a distinction he in any case deserved by dint of his own efforts. The A’s starter went into tonight’s contest with an ERA of 2.87 in May, 2.30 in June, and 1.50 for his one start in July. He faced the task of getting the third portion of the season, the long haul between the All=Star Game and the final stretch drive, off to a successful start.
Facing him for the White Sox was Iván Nova, a right-hander much given to throwing sinker balls and having a 4-7, 5.88 ERA record to show for it.
The A’s opened the scoring in the top of the first, when, with one out, Matt Chapman’s line drive ate up Leury García at short and ended up as a single to left. Matt Olson promptly moved Chapman to third with a single to right. The A’s third baseman then scored on Khris Davis’s clean single to center. Nova escaped further damage by inducing Mark Canha to hit into an inning ending double play, short to second to first.
Ramón Laureano extended the A’s lead by blasting a 2-2 pitch into the second deck left field seats for his seventeenth home run of the season. Not to be outdone, Jurickson Profar, batting left-handed, the switch-hitting second sacker’s weak side, followed with a homer, his eleventh, into the Budweiser seats in right, putting the home team in front by a score of 3-0.
The Pale Hose threatened in the top of the third when Ryan Cordell and García, the number nine and one hitters, laced back to back one out singles. But Oakland’s Fiers put out the Chicago fire, striking out Yoán Moncada and José Abreu, both of them swinging.
Fiers kept on shutting out the Sox, and Nova settled down, not allowing the A’s any more runs until with one down in the bottom of the sixth Canha shot his 13th round tripper of the season over the center field fence, just to the right of the 400 foot sign. On the next pitch, Robbie Grossman lined a double off the left center field wall. But Nova got Laureano to ground out to third and Profar to first to keep the A’s from posting a crooked number.
But Nova had thrown 104 pitches, and that finished his work for the night. Josh Phegley greeeted his replacement, Juan Minaya, by hitting a solid single to left on his first offering in the home half of the seventh. Three pitches later, Semien plated Phegley with a triple to left center. Minaya got two quick outs on Chapman and Olson but then issued back-to-back walks to Davis and Canha to load the bases. Rick Rentería sent lefty Josh Osich in to face Grossman, who would have batted from his weak, right, side if Bob Melvin hadn’t sent Chad Pinder in to hit for him. Osich got his man on a called third strike. But, by now, the A’s held a 5-0 advantage over Chicago.
When Fiers walked John McCann with two down and a man on base in the top the eighth, the A’s starter had thrown 111 pitches over seven and two-thirds, innings, more pitches over more innings than in any game since his early season no-hitter. Oh, yes, his replacement, Yusmeiro Petit, retired the side by getting John Jay to ground out to Profar at second.
Joakim Soria came in to mop up in the ninth. He wasn’t quite up to the job. García’s two-out single on a 3-2 count brought in Eloy Jiménez who had led off the frame with a single to spoil the shutout. Oakland’s all star closer, Liam Hendricks, the Pride of Perth, came in and struck out Moncada on three pitches.
The win went to Fiers; the loss to Nova. Hendrick got the save, his sixth in eight opportunities.
Oakland’s win puts them at 51-41, a half a game behind Cleveland for the second wild card spot.
Tomorrow afternoon’s contest will feature righty Chris Bassitt (5-4, 4.29 ERA) on the bump for the A’s. His opposing number is as yet unnamed, making it likely that he will be an opener.