The A’s held their own for the first three innings Thursday afternoon, then quickly lost their stride as the Blue Jays dominated them 10-4 to split the four-game series.
Toronto (16-14) outhit the A’s 16-6 and left nine runners on base. Oakland (19-14) suffered two costly errors and have lost two straight in this 14-day stretch of consecutive games. The A’s will face another tough opponent Friday when Tampa Bay arrives, and even fatigue can’t be an excuse for what has taken place.
Mike Fiers (L, 0-2, 7.71 ERA) made his second start and seems to be still in spring training mode. He gave up back-to-back singles to lead off the game but retired the next three batters and somehow managed to escape scoreless. In the third inning, the Blue Jays added on three runs before the A’s did the same in their half.
Fiers had extra time to get ready for the season starting on the injured list and prior to his first start he said there would be no excuses because he has had plenty of time to get ready, especially being a veteran pitcher who knows how to bounce back quicker than most. He struggled Thursday afternoon and the bullpen followed.
Fiers gave credit to a good Toronto lineup:
“There is a lot of good lineups in this league and when you are not at your best, it is going to be tough. Needed to make certain pitches in certain situations and they definitely made it tough on me. They are a very aggressive team and I was just giving them too good of pitches early on and not expanding when I got two strikes. That lineup is really good so when you pitch like that and you don’t stick to the game plan you are going to get hurt, so.”
Bob Melvin doesn’t think Fiers is rusty and said whenever Fiers gets runners on base he usually gets out of it. He just couldn’t do that on Thursday:
“He escaped a jam in the first and then just after that, threw some balls in the middle of the plate and that is a really good hitting team. We have kept down for a few days but certainly not today so just not his best command at times.”
Marcus Semien singled to lead off the third, giving him back-to-back base hits. Fiers walked two batters before he gave up a three-run homer to Randal Grichuk (6) who ended up driving in five of the Blue Jays 10 runs. Fiers gave up his second homer of the game in the fourth to No. 9 batter Danny Jansen (1) which made it 5-4 after the fourth.
Semien had a four-hit game including a homer. He shined bright like a diamond when he took the field in Oakland for the final game of the series and let the Oakland front office know they made a huge mistake. Sean Murphy said as much as their team knows how Semien hits, he also knows how the pitchers pitch.
Melvin spoke about Semien’s great game that came in the series finale:
“A four-hit game is pretty good. He hit a home run, he is a good hitter. Like a lot of guys in their lineup. You feel like you might get a little break at the bottom of the lineup, 1 to 7 they pound the ball pretty good so you better be locating pretty well and making some pitches. The first few games we were pretty good at that until towards the end of yesterday’s game and then today they broke loose on us.”
The hefty Blue Jays offensive lineup showed up just about every inning. Deolis Guerra threw and Reymin Guduan threw perfect fifths and sevenths, but otherwise the Blue Jays had at least one hit each inning. No one could stop the bleeding and it is quite clear when Lou Trivino, Jake Diekman or Yusmeiro Petit aren’t available, the team is in deep trouble.
Melvin said that is typically how most bullpens are. You have your key guys you use in tight game and when you are ahead or down. He explained the bullpen situation:
“It’s a little different dynamic today as far as the bullpen goes. Our bullpen has been really good with our plus guys. Sergio had a couple pitches in the middle of the plate which we haven’t seen here recently. He has been really good up to this point. When you don’t have you plus guys in the game, sometimes you give up some runs and in this situation you don’t want to walk guys. You have to throw it over the plate and you have to throw it over the plate to a good hitting team. So in the games we have been in, we have been really good in some of our bullpen work and the games that we haven’t sometimes we give up some runs that’s why you see the run differential too.”
Guerra relieved Fiers and threw two full innings allowing three runs (two earned) off a pair of hits. Sergio Romo gave up one run off two hits in two-thirds of an inning. Guduan pitched one full inning giving up a run off one hit. LHP Adam Kolarek pitched the ninth for Oakland down 10-4.
Melvin broke down the relievers he used Thursday and said they aren’t getting consistent outings which may be why they continue to struggle:
“Well we are trying to them some consistent work. We have had a lot of close games where these guys pitched and some of these guys haven’t but I don’t think its unlike a lot of bullpens where you have key guys that you go to when you’re ahead, tied and or ahead. And other guys you go to when you are not. In Koalrek’s case, he had a clean inning today as far as runs go and he hasn’t pitched in a while. Guduan hasn’t pitched in a while and it’s been a little bit for Guerra too so they are not getting consistent work right now and sometimes when you’re behind, you’re going to give up a few more runs.”
All the A’s runs came off Toronto starting pitcher Hyun Jin Ryu. Mark Canha murdered the second pitch of the game to put the A’s on the board up 1-0 after just one batter. Three more runs came in the third when Matt Olson hit a line-drive, ground-rule double that Laureano held at third on, though he could have easily scored had the ball stayed in play. Sean Murphy followed as the A’s cleanup batter and literally cleared the bases with a line drive to left to give the A’s a short-lived 4-3 lead in the bottom of the third.
Murphy on his 2-run RBI which gave the A’s back their lead:
“Right there, I was just trying not to strikeout. I was just trying not to strikeout just put the bat on the ball. It was kinda an awkward swing after I watched it on video but I was able to just stay on it just enough to get it over the third baseman’s head.”
The Oakland A’s are hit or miss. They either play beautiful, clean baseball or sloppy baseball that has fans leaving the game by the fifth inning. It is only a month into the season but teams need to start fearing A’s pitchers or the A’s lineup. Not a lot of teams are looking at the A’s lineup and fear a certain batter. Right now everyone is average and should be playing like they have something to prove, because most do. Whether its a rookie on the rise of a veteran on his way to retirement. There is a lot of talent, it just needs to gel better and be more consistent.