By Matt Doan
Special to S.F. Examiner
ANAHEIM, Calif. — The Oakland Athletics needed two things to go happen on Friday to keep their hopes alive of hosting a Wild Card playoff game in Oakland against the New York Yankees.
The first part of the plan required the A’s to beat the Angels. The second thing needing to go right for the A’s was for the Red Sox to beat the Yankees in Boston.
Neither happened, as the A’s fell 8-5 at the hands of the Angels, and New York trounced the BoSox, 11-6. This means the A’s will head to New York to play the Yankees next Wednesday night in the one-game, winner-take-all matchup.
With their playoff travel plans locked in by the second inning of Friday’s game in Anaheim due to the Yankees win, the A’s (96-64) were left to focus in on setting up their potential pitching plans for the wild card duel. Enter Lou Trivino.
Oakland’s set-up man Trivino has had a breakout rookie campaign in 2018 with eight wins and 80 strikeouts in 72 innings of relief. Bob Melvin turned to Trivino on Friday as the opener, asking him to start the game and pitch the first inning. Trivino set down the Angels in order, 1-2-3 and gave the A’s a good option to entertain if they decide to go with an opener for next Wednesday.
“(Starting) was a lot of fun, I haven’t done that since 2015,” Trivino said. “My neck felt great, fastball felt good and I had good action on my pitches. Whatever my role is in the playoffs, I am up for it. I think it will be a fun game, the place (New York) will be electric, I am excited.”
Right-hander Mike Fiers — who has lost just one of his nine starts since arriving in Oakland, and was left off of the Houston Astros’ playoff roster in 2017 — relieved Trivino in the second. He’ll have to improve on tonight’s outing if he hopes to impact the A’s playoff run.
After starting 30 times in 2018, Friday was his first relief appearance of the season and a new experience for Fiers.
“It was a little different than my first 30 games (starts), but I want to do what is best for the team,” he said.
Fiers’s outing was rocky from the beginning. Shohei Ohtani led off the second with a single to left and moved to second when Fiers hit Justin Upton on a 1-0 pitch. With one out, the two runners advanced to second and third via the stolen base and Ohtani scored the Angels’ first run on a RBI groundout from catcher Francisco Arcia.
The next batter for the Angels, third basemen Taylor Ward, deposited Fiers’ first offering — a hanging slider — deep into the left field seats to give the Angels a three-run lead.
Jose Fernandez led off the third for the Angels with a double, and Mike Trout clubbed his 39th homer of the season to up the lead to 5-0. Fiers would end up with the loss, dropping him to 12-7, as he went just 3 1/3 innings, allowing six runs on seven hits. Despite the loss, Fiers is looking forward to next Wednesday in New York
“This team will be ready to go for the playoffs, I have a lot of confidence in this team and I want the ball (in the wild card game) just as bad as anyone in here,” Fiers said.
Los Angeles starter Jaime Barria, meanwhile, held Oakland hitless through 4 2/3 innings, but he did walk five, prompting Angels manager Mike Scioscia to pull him with two outs in the fifth with two men aboard. Reliever Taylor Cole then came on to face Matt Chapman.
Cole had beaned Chapman in their only previous matchup in August, but this time, Cole fanned the A’s third baseman to end the threat. Cole would go on to pitch two additional scoreless innings with five strikeouts.
The Angels tacked on additional runs in the fifth and seventh innings, and Oakland got its first base hit of the evening off the bat of Jed Lowrie in the sixth.
The A’s finally came to life in the eighth, when Mark Canha led off with a single and scored on a Chapman single, due to a throwing error by Los Angeles outfielder Jabari Blash. Lowrie came up next and drove in Chapman with a RBI groundout.
After a Khris Davis strikeout, Matt Olson walked and came around to score after a Stephen Piscotty walk, a wild pitch and a error by Ward to make it 8-3. Marcus Semien stepped up next and lined a double to left to score Piscotty and Ramon Laureano, cutting the Angels lead to 8-5 before Jonathan Lucroy grounded out to end the inning. In the ninth, Jed Lowrie singled with two outs to put the tying run in the on deck circle but Angels closer Hansel Robles retired Davis to close out the Angel victory.
Although tonight’s contest closes the books on the A’s hosting the Wild Card game, Bob Melvin feels optimistic about traveling to New York as the visiting team.
“We’ve played well on the road, we are a power hitting team and that (Yankee Stadium) is a home run hitters ballpark,” he said.
Fiers’s relief appearance was only his fourth relief effort since 2014 (90 games, 86 starts). The A’s drew nine walks against Los Angeles pitchers (their season high was 12 walks against the White Sox on April 18).
Oakland used seven pitchers in the game and are averaging six pitchers per game in September (league average per game is 4.35 in 2018). Lowrie RBI groundout in the 8th inning gives him 97 RBI for the season, three away from his first career 100 RBI season. Trevor Cahill (6-4 3.91 ERA) is expected to get the start tomorrow night at 6:05pm (PST) from Anaheim.