Did I mention Ramon Laureano was worth the price of admission? pic.twitter.com/hkgksnPyyf
— Ben Ross (@BenRossSports) April 3, 2019
By Jeff Weisinger
Special to S.F. Examiner
OAKLAND — The Oakland Athletics pitching staff is one of the best in baseball, at least to start the season.
Coming into Tuesday’s game, the A’s starting pitchers had each gone at least six innings in their first five starts, and had allowed a total of one run.
Mike Fiers, who started the streak by going six shutout innings against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim on Opening Day in the United States got his second run on Tuesday. He was a man on fire Tuesday night, as the A’s edged the defending World Series champion Boston Red Sox 1-0, the first time they had recorded back-to-back shutouts against the Red Sox since August 30-31, 1996.
“[Fiers] did great,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said after the game. “He pitched great again. In a one-run game against these guys you have to be perfect. Every pitch is very important and he pitched as well if not better than the last time out.”
Over the last six games, Oakland’s starting rotation has a combined 0.25 ERA, allowing just one earned run in the last 36 innings pitched with 24 strikeouts. They’ve also allowed no runs in five of those last six games. Fiers extended the A’s current scoreless innings streak to 21 1/3 after back-to-back shutouts, and Oakland has allowed just three runs during the its current four-game winning streak.
“I think we’re just focused on doing our job out there one pitch at a time, doing our homework on these other hitters and just executing pitches,” Fiers said. “Good pitching is going to beat good hitting and we’ve been doing that lately.”
Fiers went six innings on the mound in his second win of the season, allowing just five hits while striking out three. While those numbers aren’t the most impressive, what made his night special was getting out of two specific jams in the middle innings. His first real sign of trouble came with Mookie Betts suddenly in scoring position after hitting a two-out double in the third inning, but he got Andrew Benintendi to ground out to second to end the inning.
An inning later, he faced runners on the corners with two away and got Brock Holt to ground out to Kendrys Morales at first.
“I felt really good, just making good pitches when I had to and they swung,” Fiers added. “They’re looking like they’re pretty aggressive and I was just making pitches down and away with the curve ball, then coming back inside, just ,you know, changing it up and just keeping them off balance.”
Fiers lone boost came off the bat of Matt Chapman, who launched his third home run of the season to left off of Chris Sale in the first inning.
“As you know, everybody talks about his defense, but he’s going to be one of the elite offensive players too,” Melvin said. “Since he’s been in that two-spot in the second half of last year for the most part and this year, he’s hitting like one of the elite hitters in the league. So it’s only going to get better with him.”
Like Fiers, Sale had a strong outing of his own, with Chapman’s home run being the lone blemish. Sale also went six innings, allowing just three hits while tallying a pair of walks and just a lone strikeout.
Both Ryan Buchter and Lou Trevino combined to hold the Red Sox to just one hit in the seventh and eighth innings, respectively, but things got interesting in the ninth.
With Blake Treinen on the mound and one out, Xander Bogearts launched what initially appeared to be a home run to right center. The ball bounced off of the top of the high part of the wall at the 388-foot sign, and rolled away from a leaping Ramon Laureano. As Bogaerts rounded second, heading for third base, Laureano picked up the ball and rifled it to third, cutting down Bogearts to prevent the potential game-tying run from being just a ball in play away from scoring. The play was reviewed and the call stood.
“We were looking at the StatCast and it took him 0.6 seconds to get rid of it,” Melvin explained. “Then you’ve got to throw it absolutely on the money and you better have his arm. It’s the only chance and [Chapman] makes a quick tag, but we’ve seen these throws from him that I don’t know that anyone in the league makes.
Fiers, who was already out of the game, was also impressed by Laureano’s throw to effectively save the game at the moment.
“He keeps impressing us,” Fiers said. “We know how good he is and how good he is going to be, but he keeps doing it. He keeps making the plays which are helping us win ballgames.”