OAKLAND — Saturday was an exciting day at the Oakland Coliseum, but not because of the game being played.
The Oakland Athletics couldn’t find any answers on either side of the ball, suffering a 10-1 rout against the Toronto Blue Jays that felt like it was already decided halfway through. However, along the way fans were treated to everything from a Matt Chapman bobblehead giveaway, to two instances of fans running onto the field, to an amazing barehanded catch by Toronto shortstop Freddy Galvis, to a pitching appearance from A’s first baseman Kendrys Morales.
The A’s have now dropped the first two games of their series against the Blue Jays, while totaling just two runs and 12 hits combined. Through the first four games of their current homestand, including two against the Houston Astros, they have been outscored 25-5.
“We’re not being consistent at all,” said A’s starter Mike Fiers, who took the loss on Saturday. “We’re not playing the game that we usually play, and teams are beating us right now. We need to get that fire back, and we need to come out and pitch and hit and do all the things right to win ballgames.”
Fiers got burned for his third outing in a row, this time failing to make it out of the fourth inning. The right-hander entered the fourth already down 1-0, and proceeded to let the first five batters reach base. By the time he was pulled he’d allowed six hits in the frame, four of them with exit velocities above 100 mph and two of them clearing the fence for home runs.
“I honestly don’t know,” said Fiers, who added that he’d felt better than any other game this year before running into trouble. “I’m kinda confused on what’s going on, and why I’m not getting the job done. But I’m gonna come to this ballpark tomorrow, and I’m gonna work hard and get back to how I pitch.”
All told, Fiers allowed six runs for his third straight start. His ERA is 16.20 over that trio of disastrous appearances, spanning just 10 innings total.
“He pitched really well for us last year and we signed him for a reason,” said manager Bob Melvin. “He’s going through a rough stretch right now, but we fully expect him next time to go out and pitch better.”
Oakland’s bullpen wasn’t much better, tacking on another three runs in the next couple innings after Fiers’ departure. However, they got some help at the end from an unlikely source.
With the game already out of hand in the ninth, the A’s turned to Morales to finish out the day. The 35-year-old slugger made the second pitching appearance of his MLB career, after throwing an inning last summer, coincidentally for the Blue Jays against the A’s. This time he navigated around a single, a pair of walks, and a hit batsman to allow only one run to his former teammates, becoming the 13th Oakland position player ever to pitch and the first since outfielder Jake Smolinski last June.
“He knows his way around a baseball field,” said Melvin of the veteran Morales. “He knows what he’s doing out there. He’s been a nice resource for the guys, too.”
Morales threw 18 pitches overall, mostly between 81-85 mph, and Statcast registered each one as a slider. Morales told a different story, though.
“No, didn’t throw a single slider,” said Morales through an interpreter. “Just regular fastballs. The speed gun wouldn’t register my slider.”
On the offensive side of the ball, the A’s were silent from wire to wire. Chapman notched a pair of hits on his bobblehead day, but even then he was picked off first base after one of them. That baserunning miscue ended the third inning, and after that the next dozen Oakland batters were retired in order. The A’s didn’t cross the plate until earning a meaningless run in the ninth on a sacrifice fly by Mark Canha.
Toronto even worked through some bad fortune of their own. After catcher Luke Maile caught Chapman straying too far from first base, starting pitcher Matt Shoemaker helped his infielders execute the subsequent rundown. However, just as Shoemaker tagged Chapman, he landed wrong on his left knee and eventually fell to the ground in obvious pain and frustration. Sam Gaviglio relieved him and threw four perfect innings to earn the win.
“We’ve been stagnant,” said Melvin. “It hasn’t just been on the pitching end. We have not swung the bats well. Houston pitched us really tough, [Blue Jays’ Friday starter Marcus] Stroman was really tough again yesterday. You get tired of saying everybody’s tough, so, Shoemaker comes out of the game and we still don’t do much after that. So we have to get on a little better roll offensively.”
As if Oakland’s lineup wasn’t scuffling enough, the Blue Jays added a spectacular defensive highlight in the eighth. With a runner on base, Josh Phegley lofted a flare into shallow left field. Galvis ranged out for it, with his back to home plate, but the ball came down on his right side away from his glove. Unfazed, he reached out and snatched it out of the air with his bare hand, ending the inning with a catch that will surely make highlight reels all year long.
With the A’s providing little to cheer about, the fans took matters into their own hands. In the seventh, a man ran onto the field and milled around for several moments, at one point charging toward right fielder Stephen Piscotty in what the outfielder suggested might have been an intoxicated attempt to steal his hat. As security closed in on the man, he attempted to jump back into the stands behind the visitors’ bullpen, but another fan blocked his escape and pushed him back onto the field and into the waiting arms of the guards.
In the ninth, it happened again. This time, a different fan made his way to the pitcher’s mound and mimicked a windup motion. After tossing his imaginary pitch, he jogged over to second base and touched the bag. From there, with security approaching from both sides, he attempted to split the defenders and run past second base umpire Jeff Nelson. That proved to be the wrong move, as Nelson grabbed him and slammed him to the ground to end the chase.
Unfortunately, those disruptive theatrics were the most exciting parts of this game, as the A’s quietly fell back below the .500 mark at 11-12 and lost their first home series since last June. They’ll look to avoid a sweep on Sunday, with Brett Anderson facing off against Aaron Sanchez.