OAKLAND — When Mike Fiers last started for the Oakland Athletics on Saturday, he exited in the second inning with numbness in his pitching hand, which was diagnosed as nerve irritation in his arm.
After a clean MRI and a successful bullpen session, he’s ready to get back on the mound Friday for his next start.
Fiers gets the ball as the A’s open their final home series of the 2019 regular season, a three-game affair against the Texas Rangers. The opener also happens to feature a Fiers bobblehead giveaway, commemorating the no-hitter he threw in May.
Oakland opens the weekend in position as the top American League wild card, with a two-game lead over both the Tampa Bay Rays and Cleveland Indians, who are tied for the second spot. The A’s magic number is seven over both clubs to earn the first wild card, and with it, home-field advantage in the play-in game.
Fiers will look to bounce back from a recent slump, during which he’s posted an 8.88 ERA over his last six appearances. His last two starts have been especially tough, as each time he was forced out in the second inning, though for different reasons — first it was because the Astros scored nine runs against him, and then last time, against the Rangers in Arlington, it was because of the nerve issue.
He has made two other starts against the Rangers this year. In April they got the best of him, scoring six runs in five innings, though the A’s came back to win. Then in June, Fiers answered back in another Oakland victory with a six-inning, two-run performance, amid a streak of 17 consecutive quality starts by the right-hander.
Texas counters with starter Mike Minor. The left-hander is having an excellent season that was recognized with an All-Star nod earlier in the summer, but he’s lost to the A’s both times he’s faced them. Most recently, in the game last Saturday that Fiers left early, Minor was tagged for seven runs in five innings.
With the lefty on the mound for the Rangers, the A’s lineup features eight right-handed batters, including two rookies in catcher Sean Murphy and second baseman Sheldon Neuse. Chad Pinder also gets the call in left field, and the only lefty hitter is first baseman Matt Olson.