Thursday wasn’t technically Opening Day for the Oakland A’s, but let’s all just pretend it was. Last week they dropped their first two games of the season in Japan, and along the way they didn’t look like a team hoping to contend. They got back on track in their U.S. home opener, though, cruising to a 4-0 victory over the Angels in a contest that barely took two hours to complete.
Everything that went wrong in Japan seemed like an afterthought in this one. Starting pitcher Mike Fiers got torched last week in the hitter-friendly Tokyo Dome, but back home in the Coliseum he spun six scoreless innings and allowed just one hit. Meanwhile, the A’s lineup had struggled to cash in on rallies overseas last week, leading to fear that they’d be too dependent on homers, but this time they scored their first two runs using some situational hitting and a bit of hustle. Though they also added a couple homers for good measure.
For Fiers, it was his second Opening Day start of the year, which is an odd thing to consider. The Angels lineup was missing a couple of star hitters in Justin Upton and Shohei Ohtani, but it’s still got the best player in baseball in Mike Trout plus some other strong bats. Fiers’ first pitch resulted in a loud out to the warning track, and the second batter nearly reached the track as well, but he settled down from there and didn’t smell any kind of trouble until the 5th.
Even Fiers’ only hit was a catchable ball. On a deep drive to center in the 5th, Ramon Laureano initially broke in before reversing course toward the wall behind him, and he ended up coming just a couple steps short of reaching the ball. It was still hard contact, but it’s one that Laureano probably gets to most of the time with a better route. Granted, Fiers did spot the Angels three walks and a HBP, and there were a couple other flies to the warning track beyond the ones already mentioned, but overall it was still an impressive performance by the right-hander.
While Fiers was blanking the Halos, the A’s were needling former teammate Trevor Cahill. Last year Cahill allowed just 13 earned runs in 11 starts at the Coliseum, but this time he let four through in his six innings — one in each of four different frames.
The first run nearly came on a homer, but instead Oakland used some situational hitting to finish it off. Jurickson Profar hit a drive off the wall in right in the 2nd inning, and by the time the fielder misplayed the carom Profar had raced to third for a triple. On the very next pitch, Chad Pinder lifted a sac fly to plate the run and give the A’s a lead.
In the 3rd, Oakland showed some hustle for their next run. New leadoff hitter Robbie Grossman singled, and then he stole second — something he didn’t do even once last season. With the runner now in scoring position, Matt Chapman worked his 1-2 count into a walk, and then Stephen Piscotty followed with exactly what the A’s needed: just a simple single to drive home Grossman and continue the rally. Even better, Piscotty didn’t stop at first base, stretching his hit into a hustle double complete with a fancy slide to avoid the tag on a throw that beat him.
And then, having shown they could score the long way, it was time for some dingers. First it was Marcus Semien in the 4th, to straightaway center.
And then in the 6th, who else but Khrush himself, for his second of the year already. This was an absolute no-doubter into the second deck.
From there, the A’s bullpen took care of business. Lou Trivino spotted the Angels a walk to lead off the 7th, but he needed only eight pitches to retire the next three batters. Joakim Soria allowed a couple hits in the 8th, but he was able to strand them. And then Blake Treinen came in for the 9th, and he needed only seven pitches to seal it. None of them got credit for holds or a save because of the four-run lead, but it was still an exciting preview of how Oakland will be able to shorten games this summer.
Of course, it wouldn’t be an A’s game without some defensive highlights from Chaptain America. He snared a sharp liner from former teammate Jonathan Lucroy in the 3rd, but his best play was a 5-3 double play to get Fiers out of that jam in the 5th. Last year, no third baseman in the majors made more 5-3 double plays than Chapman’s five, and now he’s already got his first of this new season.
Grossman also turned in a couple of nice plays. He made one running catch in foul territory, avoiding a security guard and the corner of the wall behind the bullpen. A couple innings later, he made another running grab, this time at the LF wall on a deep fly by Andrelton Simmons. They weren’t Web Gems or anything, but they were good strong efforts from an outfielder not known for his glove. Between that, his first steal since 2017, and getting on base twice (which is the actual reason he’s here), it was an excellent home debut for Grossman.
On the downside, Ramon Laureano looked a bit lost on both sides of the ball. He went hitless at the plate, took the aforementioned bad route on the deep fly he could maybe have caught, and then made an outright error later by overrunning a routine single and letting two runners advance. However, it was also his 51st career game, so patience are in order. Remember that his biggest strengths include working insanely hard and making proper adjustments when needed, so there’s nothing to worry about yet.
And with that, the A’s are now in the win column. The pitching staff might just have some zeroes up their sleeves after all, the lineup looked fully functional, and the defense was mostly tight. It was a good day in the Coliseum, and it ended with one of our favorite sounds for the first time this year:
The A’s are back at it on Friday, at 7:07 p.m. It’ll be Marco Estrada vs. Matt Harvey, and this time Oakland will get to add Kendrys Morales to their lineup.