There are not too many pleasures in life greater than a warm summer early-July Friday night, when your baseball team is red-hot and the endless stretches of daily summer baseball are right in front of you. Although you can’t wait for the crisp air of fall that brings with it the glorious possibilities of playoff baseball, there’s a stronger part of you that wants the summer to last forever; as every night is filled with offensive miracles, and the no-name pitching staff doing nothing except performing at an elite pitcher level night after night. Tonight was no exception; a brilliant game that the A’s had in hand from the very first inning.
Believe it or not, tonight markes the tenth straight quality start for Mike Fiers, and it was a doozy. His 112 pitches, tantalizingly close to eight terrific shutout innings, walking only the last batter he faced, marred with eight hits against his four strikeouts, Fiers gave the A’s everything they needed and more, as the second half of the season begins with a bang. Or, if you’re Dallas Braden, “Next stop! Poundtown!”
The A’s were on the board right out of the gate tonight, as Khris Davis smoked an RBI single in the first. Home runs by Ramon Laureano, back-to-back with Jurickson Profar in the second, and Mark Canha in the sixth, followed by a triple by Marcus Semien in the seventh staked Fiers to the comfortable 5-0 lead, and he never flinched. This game should have and would have been a shutout, with minimal drama, except Joakim Soria, who put the first two men on in the ninth, eventually allowing a two-out RBI single, which forced the A’s to use Liam Hendriks to secure the win with a 3-pitch save. The best.
Last summer, the A’s stormed out of the gates with a 42-23 post-All Star Break record; a margin that by all measures, will be hard to top. But the A’s are going to try, and their ace pitcher, Mike Fiers and the A’s incredible offense, adding three more home runs to their total tonight, started out the campaign with as good of a win as we could have hoped.
One-out singles in the first by the Matts put runners at first and third for Khris Davis, whose RBI single plated the first A’s run. They might have added more save for a double-play off the bat of Mark Canha, who would definitely make up for it later.
The fun continued into the second inning as the A’s broadcast replayed Laureano’s home run from Sunday afternoon (fair or foul!) a split second before he replicated the feat (definitely fair) in real time for his 17th homerun on the year; this one a towering second-deck effort to left field. Ball juiced or not, Ramon Laureano making an early season bid for 17 homeruns is an unexpected but supremely awesome development for someone who couldn’t lay off the outside slider in April. His defense was always a plus, but he’s joined the ranks of Chapman (21) and Olson (19) for the A’s power competition.
Just when the crowd had settled down, Jurickson Profar, not to be undone, uncorked his own home run; this one to right field, to give the A’s the early 3-0 lead, and Fiers some breathing room. Fiers allowed his share of hits, but he bailed himself out with timely strikeouts, and key double plays. When was all said and done, he earned his 9th win on the year, as a huge ace for the A’s this year.
To pad the lead in the sixth, and not to be left out of the fun, Mark Canha, on a 1-2 pitch, hit the A’s third home run of the night to bring the lead to 4-0, and after Nova was pulled in favor of Minaya, Phegley singled and Semien tripled to give the A’s the 5-0 lead.
Soria walked the leadoff hitter in the ninth, followed by a single to put two on. He induced a popup and a strikeout, but allowed an RBI single to end the shutout, and with the game now qualifying for a save, Bob Melvin elected to go with Liam Hendriks, who struck out Yoan Moncada on just three pitches, basically the most efficient save ever, his sixth.
Meanwhile around the league, the Angels threw a combined no-hitter in their first home game since the untimely death of Tyler Skaggs, with the entire team sporting his number ‘45’, leaving all the jerseys on the mound in a heartrendingly touching moment as they left the field.
And if all that wasn’t magical enough tonight, Texas stormed the gates, overcame multiple deficits at home in their game, and shocked the Astros by pulling off a stunner ninth-inning walk-off, beating the Astros 9-8 to close the AL West gap to a ridiculously slim 6.0 games.
Everything is coming up green and gold tonight on this magical summer ride as the A’s played a near-perfect game, with nearly all the pieces clicking neatly into place as they begin their second half surge. Don’t wake me up.
We’ll see you back here tomorrow at 1:07; Chris Bassitt will be throwing for the A’s; the White Sox yet to be determined.
LET’S GO OAK-LAND!