Oakland Athletics center fielder Ramon Laureano got breakfast on Tuesday morning with the night’s starter, Mike Fiers. After Tuesday night, Fiers should probably pick up the tab next time. Or buy Laureano a steak, or a Rolex, or a new car.
No-hitters are defined by a series of moments, and Laureano, in protecting Fiers’ second career no-hitter, a 2-0 win over the Cincinnati Reds, provided a dandy, saving the 300th no-hitter in Major League history by leaping up and over the left center field wall in the top of the sixth to rob Joey Votto of a home run.
“He’s done that once or twice, so that’s another play for him,” Fiers said.
From there on out, Fiers cruised, fanning Eugenio Suarez on a curve in the dirt to end the ninth, sending the A’s out of the dugout as he spread his arms wide. More than four hours after the initially scheduled start time, after an hour and 45-minute delay due to electrical issues, Fiers celebrated the second Oakland A’s no-hitter in as many seasons and eighth in franchise history, and embraced catcher Josh Phegley.
“Amazing, that’s really all I can say,” Fiers told reporters, before getting a bit emotional. “I could be working a 9-5 and doing so many other things. Playing this game, I’m blessed.”
The game was originally supposed to be started by Aaron Brooks, thanks to a pair of days off on the road, so coming in, Fiers, for one, was hoping against hope that he’d be able to go, because that would line him up for a start on Mother’s Day. He was also hoping that he’d get to even take the mound when the outfield lights didn’t fully illuminate in time for the game to start on time.
“I’m just glad they got those ligths working,” Fiers said. “That could have been a bummer.”
Fiers made a point to thank Charlie Sullivan, a scout for the Milwaukee Brewers that advocated for him as a little-known prospect in South Florida. In a post-game, on-field interview, Fiers thanked the fans, who had come for a 7 pm start, and stayed for what could be an inflection point for Oakland.
The April 21 no-hitter last season by Sean Manaea against the Boston Red Sox helped turn the A’s season around. After that game, Oakland went 86-54. The A’s, coming into Tuesday, had gone 1-8 on the most recent road trip, and were 15-21. Some of that could be laid at Fiers’ feet. Acquired after the trade deadline last season, Fiers had helped stabilize a rotation beset by injury, and went to free agency this offseason before re-signing. Fiers had come in struggling in his second season with Oakland, with a 6.81 ERA and a 2-3 record as the A’s supposed ace.
The effort was nearly quashed in the fourth, when Eugenio Suarez sent a grounder up the middle into the shift. Third baseman Matt Chapman ranged behind second base and saw the ball run up his glove and into the air. The play was ruled an error. Fiers then got Yasiel Puig to fly out to end the inning.
Fiers walked Suarez to start the seventh, but then got a 4-6-3 double play out of Jack Winker to end the inning.
“It was a great night, obviously for him, for our team, for our fans, everyone who wants to see a no-hitter,” said manager Bob Melvin. “It was no fun for me, once he got over 120 pitches, I promise you that … I broke every rule in the book and told him after the seventh, no more baserunners.”
Fiers threw his first career no-hitter while with the Houston Astros, blanking the Los Angeles Dodgers on Aug. 21, 2015 in just his third start with Houston. In that game, he threw 134 pitches. On Tuesday, he needed 131.
The previous experience allowed him to stay within himself, Fiers said.
“Going into the sixth, I was hoping we could ride this out a little bit,” Phegley said. “His fastball command down and away to all the righties was unbelievable. I think he could steal a strike whenever he wanted to.”
The 33-year old struck out six, but needed a bit of help from his defense, with two big plays in the sixth.
With one out, Reds second baseman Kyle Farmer lifted a 2-1 pop fly to shallow right. Jurickson Profar, who had been battling the yips, laid out to make the grab, sliding several feet to preserve the effort.
“Profar’s was kind of the hors d’oeuvres,” Melvin said.
One batter later, Votto — despite his .218 average, one of the most dangerous hitters in the Cincinnati lineup — sent the first pitch he saw 395 feet to center. Laureano sprinted back to his right and vaulted up over the wall at the 388-foot cutout to make the inning-ending grab.
“I didn’t know what was happening,” Laureano said. “I didn’t even know … When Votto got out in the last inning, that’s when I knew something was happening.”
“He just amazes you every time,” Fiers said of Laureano. “He’s got an amazing talent out there.”
Profar provided all the offense, doubling home Stephen Piscotty in the second — with Piscotty sliding under a tag from Reds catcher Tucker Barnhart — and then hitting a solo home run to right center field in the seventh.
“Profar’s home run gave him the no-hitter, more than anything else,” Melvin said.
The next time Fiers and Laureano go out for a bite, maybe the reservation should be for three.