Winners of five of their last six, the Athletics (73-53) looked to clinch a series victory Wednesday night against the powerful Yankees (83-45).
Fiers took the mound boasting a 9-0 record over his last 18 starts. Throughout those 18 starts, Fiers has allowed only 31 earned runs in 116-1/3 innings pitched (2.40 ERA).
The Yankees stacked lineup went down quietly in the top of the first inning. Fiers retired D.J. LeMahieu and Aaron Judge before allowing a walk to catcher Gary Sanchez, who was stranded at first after Gio Urshela lined out to end the inning.
After the scoreless first inning, Fiers surrendered a leadoff double to Didi Gregorius. The next batter, Gleyber Torres, was retired on a groundout, before Mike Tauchman, knocked in Gregorius and gave the Yankees a 1-0 lead in the second. Fiers escaped the second inning, but not before surrendering the game’s first run.
Khris Davis returns to form
A’s slugger Khris Davis is notorious for putting up eye-popping home run numbers year in and year out. Coming into Wednesday night, Davis has been struggling all season long. Recovering from a hand injury he sustained at the end of June, Davis had yet to return to his former self.
After the Yankees took a 1-0 lead in the second inning, Piscotty came to the plate in the bottom of the second with two outs and lined a base hit to center. Next batter up, Davis himself, launched a two-run homer (18) to right, his first home run since July 30.
Following Wednesday nights game, A’s manager Bob Melvin addressed Davis’ homer, and how important it was for the struggling slugger to get back to doing what he does best.
“He needed that. … He’s been grinding hard, he takes this seriously. He’s been so instrumental for this team, a consistent of a power hitter as we’ve ever had around here. Three years of .247 [average] on the nose with 40-plus home runs. It’s weighing on him, it hurts. He wants to hit in the middle of the order and do what he normally does, but everybody goes through some tough times. I’m glad he hit a home run today.”
Insurance runs courtesy of the long ball
In the bottom of the third, catcher Josh Phegley led off the inning with a walk. Semien would follow with a two-run shot to left field, his 22nd home run of the season. Scoring four runs early off Happ, the A’s held a 4-1 lead heading into the fourth.
After a quiet fourth inning, the A’s kept their foot on the gas pedal in the bottom of the fifth and extended their lead even further. Jurickson Profar led off the inning with a double. Phegley reached base after getting hit by a pitch. Happ loaded the bases full of A’s after a walk to Semien, with nobody out.
Loading the bases without recording an out, Happ would exit the game in the fifth, while inheriting all three of the runners. The Yankees would turn to reliever Chad Green, in an effort to escape the bases-loaded jam.
A’s third baseman Matt Chapman popped out to record the first out of the inning. Next batter up, Matt Olson, followed with a pop out of his own. With two outs and the bases loaded, center fielder Mark Canha extended the A’s lead to 5-1 with a single past the diving Gregorius at short. Left fielder Chad Pinder would end the A’s threat with a groundout to short.
Busy sixth inning knocks Fiers out of the game
After striking out Sanchez to begin the sixth inning, Fiers would then run into trouble. Urshela followed with a single to center, followed by a Gregorius walk. A single from Torres would load the bases with one out and force A’s manager Bob Melvin to replace Fiers with lefty Jake Diekman.
Post-game, Fiers discussed his outing Wednesday night, and the trouble he ran into during the sixth inning, attributing the momentum to the bullpen.
I just wanted to keep them off the board. I was probably a little inconsistent there, trying to make some good pitches and pitch to contact more. Bob’s gotta treat this like a playoff game, we’ve got to win every game. It went south there, didn’t look as crisp as the first couple of innings. Treinen getting out of that jam was huge, that was a turning point i think.”
Tauchman, the Yankees fifth batter of the inning, scored Urshela from third on a sac fly to left, cutting the A’s lead down to 5-2. Melvin would make another call to the bullpen, bringing in righty Yusmeiro Petit. Facing Cameron Maybin, Petit would escape the sixth inning jam with a strikeout.
Home runs for everyone
After escaping the top of the sixth inning jam, the A’s would immediately get a run back on a first-pitch Piscotty home run to right. The A’s extended their lead to 6-2 on Piscotty’s 13th home run of the season.
Just as the A’s giveth, the A’s taketh away. In the top of the seventh, Petit surrendered a leadoff home run to Yankees designated hitter Mike Ford, cutting the A’s lead to 6-3 in the seventh. Petit would later be replaced by Blake Treinen with two outs in the seventh inning after Petit surrendered a base hit to Sanchez.
Treinen immediately surrendered a base hit to Urshela, putting runners on first and third with two outs. Gregorius followed with a double down the right-field line, scoring Sanchez and trimming the A’s lead to 6-4 through seven.
The future has arrived
Warming up in the top of the seventh, was A’s number two prospect A.J. Puk. The A’s went down quietly in the bottom of the seventh, which allowed the rookie to make his major league debut in the top of the eighth inning.
Coming out of the bullpen, Puk was throwing heat from the first pitch to Tauchman in the eighth. Walking him on six pitches, he displayed a nasty 99-mph slider. Maybin followed with a pop-up to Profar at second, who made a sliding, diving, over-the-shoulder catch to record the first out.
Puk displayed filthy stuff on the mound but left after recording just one out. Ford followed Maybin with a single to right, putting runners on first and third with one out. That would be all for the rookie, who was replaced by Liam Hendriks. Striking out LeMahieu to record the second out, Hendrick got Judge swinging to end the inning, preserving the A’s 6-4 lead.
Melvin discussed Puk’s debut, and the tough situation he was put in during the eighth inning:
Apparently he’s throwing a 99-mph slider. I saw a couple on the board. Thats a though spot too, coming in against the Yankees for his first appearance, in the eighth inning in a two-run game. Maybe a little bit of nerves in the first walk, makes a good pitch to Maybin, Profar makes a terrific play and then just one down the middle to Ford, and he put a pretty good swing on it. We got the first out of the way, and we’re pulling to see him out there again.”
The hype surrounding Puk certainly is well-warranted given how he’s the teams No. 2 prospect, and the number 43 overall prospect in baseball. The standing ovation he received from the Oakland crowd was extra special, given Puk’s recent recovery from Tommy John Surgery. Melvin addressed the crowds enthusiasm:
Yeah usually i dont take too much notice to applause for someone coming in the game. … But it was pretty significant, you couldn’t help but notice that. There’s certain guys here that our fan base is looking forward to seeing, that’s definitely one of them. Im glad he got the kind of applause that he did.”
A quiet finish to an eventful game
The A’s were unable to add on to their two-run lead in the bottom of the eighth. A one-two-three inning sent this game to the ninth, and Hendriks back out to close out the ninth. Facing the heart of the Yankees order, Hendriks would retire Sanchez to record the first out of the inning. A fly ball caught in deep right by Chad Pinder recorded the second out before Gregorius grounded out to short to end the ball game.
Pre-game injury updates
A’s manager, Bob Melvin, provided an update on right fielder Stephen Piscotty, who exited Tuesday night’s game with an ankle injury. Piscotty was back in the lineup Wednesday night.
The A’s outfield has been bitten by the injury bug as of late. In addition to Piscotty, centerfielder Ramon Laureano, is recovering from a shin injury. Melvin provided an update on the A’s star centerfielder.
The A’s have proven to be a tough task for the Yankees over the years. Since the start of 2017, the A’s own a 10-5 record against New York. The A’s .666 winning percentage against the Yankees is the best in baseball over that stretch (minimum five games played). Thursday night’s contest will feature newly-acquired Tanner Roark (7-8, 4.01 ERA) squaring off against Yankees righty Masahiro Tanaka (9-6, 4.56 ERA).
Since June 17, the A’s find themselves with the second-best record in all of baseball at 37-17. … Prior to Wednesday, A’s starting pitching was 9-5 with a 3.12 ERA over their last 20 games played. … Tuesday night’s victory over the Yankees secured the A’s 41st win at home this season, which is good for their third-straight season with a winning record at home.