OAKLAND, Calif. — This is way things are going for the Oakland A’s: The guy (Robbie Grossman) they signed as a free agent six weeks ago had two hits, scored a run and made a great catch.
The guy (Jurickson Profar) they traded for over the winter tripled to right and scored their first run.
The guy who was battered on the other side of the Pacific (Mike Fiers) was un-battered and outstanding back in the US of A, allowing one hit — and that wasn’t until the fifth — and no runs in six innings.
And this also is the way things are going. Not until after the beautifully and quickly (2 hours, 18 minutes) played 4-0 win over the Angels in the home opener Thursday at the Coliseum did a rainstorm arrive.
Although one wouldn’t say the A’s, or anybody, has control over the weather.
They certainly had control of the Angels — who, despite having the highest-paid player in baseball, $430 million man Mike Trout (he was 1 for 3 in his first major league game since signing that contract), reminded us once more it’s impossible to win when you can’t get a run.
Let us not get carried away. This was only one game, and the A’s, because of a schedule manager Bob Melvin referred to as surreal, came in with an 0-2 record — after being shipped to Tokyo and losing a couple to Seattle and then returning back for, yes, exhibition games against the Giants.
Then again, let us get carried away. We knew this Oakland team is excellent, balanced and proven, loaded with power (Marcus Semien and Khris Davis homered; Profar tripled; Stephen Piscotty doubled) and confidence.
“That comes from defense,” said Melvin. “We knew how we felt about ourselves defensively last year. We knew we weren’t giving up any runs, making good plays, making the routine play. You don’t play 2 hours 10 minutes, whatever it was, without making good defensive plays.”
Like the one Grossman made in left, grabbing a ball down the foul line. Like the one Matt Chapman made to start a third-to-short-to-first double play. “He’s platinum,” said Melvin, alluding to the reward for the man judged best at his position.
If you seek a negative, well, the crowd for the first home game of 2019 — a season in which the A’s are trying to regain the respect and support of the late 1980s and early 1990s, when they won a World Series and played in two others — was, shall we say, minimal, just 22,691.
The temperature was cool, 61 degrees at first pitch, and there was a forecast of late-afternoon rain, which turned out to be accurate. And A’s fans are 9-to-5 types, who on a workday have to work. Which may be the reason there will be a second home opener — “Groundhog Day Diamond Version” — on Friday night.
But no matter how many or how few, A’s fans, with their drums and their cheers, are fans. Apropos of nothing but maybe pertinent to everything, the late comedian Robin Williams, who attended Giants home games now and then, was asked if other spectators bothered him. “No,” he explained, “they’re too busy talking on their cell phones.”
The Coliseum gets maligned, and as we know the A’s are planning a new park over on the docks, but according to Grossman, who was with the Minnesota Twins the previous two seasons and the Astros organization before that, the stadium gives the A’s an advantage.
“The way the park is set up,” said Grossman, “but most of all the fans. They’re great for A’s players. They’re into the game. They make it fun playing in front of them.”
Grossman has been playing because Nick Martini sprained a knee in spring training. “He moved right in there,” Melvin said of Grossman. “He gets on base. Did you see him hit the ball the other way? He makes pitchers work.”
On the mound, Fiers simply worked at his craft. He held the Angels hitless until Tommy La Stella doubled in the fifth, a huge and for Oakland wonderful contrast from his start against the Mariners on March 20 in Japan. That day, Fiers was pummeled for five runs in the third.
“I didn’t expect to get six out of him,” Melvin said of Fiers’ performance Thursday. “Mike really set the tone, putting up some zeroes.”
Fiers said, “I was just trying to pitch my game. It definitely felt better being at home. No excuses. Last time I got beat. I just wanted to give these fans something for the support they showed us.”
A shutout is quite is more than enough.