OAKLAND, Calif. — This is the kind of day it was for the Oakland Athletics: A first baseman came in as a reliever; on two different occasions, fans jumped out of the stands, dashed across the diamond and were taken into custody; and the home team couldn’t pitch or hit.
So, on a Saturday that began so well, more than 31,000 fans showing up at the Coliseum, sunshine breaking through the fog, the A’s were pummeled, 10-1, by the Toronto Blue Jays, Oakland avoiding a shutout on a sacrifice fly with one out in the ninth.
A team that was acting and talking like a champion a week and a half ago not only has lost four of its last five games, but is searching for answers along with some hits.
The highlight of a lowlight game perhaps was a position player, Kendrys Morales, last seen playing first, pitching the top of the ninth and allowing only a hit and a run.
“It doesn’t feel great to use somebody like that,” A’s manager Bob Melvin conceded of his decision to bring in Morales. “But you know, he’s done it before, and he’s not going to go out there and embarrass himself.”
Something not to be said of Oakland starter Mike Fiers, who gave up nine hits and six runs in 3 1/3 innings, including back-to-back homers in an awful fourth, and in his post-game comments with the media sounded like a guy who had been asked to explain the Theory of Relativity.
After using the word "tough" a couple dozen times — “The Blue Jays are tough; it’s a tough feeling right now” — maybe more than he used his breaking pitches, Fiers said, “Everything has gone wrong. I don’t know, honestly. I don’t know.”
What the A’s know is last December they gave Fiers, who as a late addition helped get them to the 2018 postseason, a two-year contract for some $15 million. And, well, dare I say, it’s been tough. He’s now 2-2 with an 8.28 earned run average.
Hard to win when the other teams are getting more than eight runs a game. Especially when you’re barely getting one.
“He got some balls over the plate and up a ways,” said Melvin. “There’s a fine line with him. And it’s not just our pitching. We haven’t swung the bats well. Houston pitched us real tough (the A’s scored three runs total in two games against the Astros; now they’ve scored two in two games against the Blue Jays).
“You get tired saying everybody’s tough, but that’s the way it is.”
Oakland has to hit if it wants to win. The pitching is less than impressive. Now the batting is in a rut.
You sense a burden on Fiers, that he feels a responsibility to his teammates.
“I’m not doing anything right,” said Fiers. “That’s what it feels like right now. They started putting the ball in play and I couldn’t make the pitch to stop them.”
Fortunately on a crazy day, authorities were able to stop the two youngish men who at different times ran onto the field of play. One of the perpetrators even dashed to the mound — this was between innings — and took a windup with no ball. After being tackled hard, presumably he wound up behind bars, if only briefly.
Morales possibly thought the guys being chased was great comedy — and bad memories. He escaped Cuba on his ninth attempt, on a raft, then went to the Dominican Republic. Literally, he’s been there, done that, playing virtually every position in baseball.
“I spent a lot years being a pitcher,” Morales said through translator Fernando Alcala, the A’s director of baseball communications. “I enjoy it.”
His last appearance as a pitcher was a year ago for Toronto against Oakland. Now it’s for Oakland against Toronto.
“The team needed me to get some outs,” said Morales. He got them. Obviously the pressure on him is not quite like the pressure on Fiers.
“You have to attack those guys,” Fiers said of the Blue Jays. “You can’t be nicking the corners. They are very aggressive. They swing early, they swing often. They pick up a lot of runs.”
As verified on the scoreboard and box score.