Here’s a question you often hear while sitting around talking baseball: Who would you want starting for your team in Game 7 of the World Series?
We doubt anyone would suggest righthander Mike Fiers of the Oakland A’s. He’s not yet a career .500 pitcher, a third or fourth starter for any team with decent pitching depth. Heck, he might be a fifth starter or a long reliever on some teams.
This just in: After Tuesday, we should at least think about handing him the ball in a big spot.
With the help of two great defensive plays, despite a 98-minute delay because a malfunction of the leftfield lights, Fiers tossed the second no-hitter of his Major League career. It was the 300th no-hitter in MLB history.
“Amazing. That’s really all I can really say,” Fiers said. “Things like this just happen.”
Fiers pitched a shutout and beat the Cincinnati Reds 2-0. On Monday, the Reds bore witness to Pablo Sandoval’s historic trifecta (hitting a home run, stealing a base, pitching a scoreless inning) in a 12-4 over the San Francisco Giants. We can’t to see what’s in store for them on Wednesday.
Amazingly, the game was in doubt of even being played when a bank of lights in left field malfunctioned. And then once Fiers got going, it was clear he was throwing too many pitchers to get to the eighth, let alone the ninth inning. As it is, Fiers only got the start when the A’s skipped Aaron Brooks’ spot after an off-day on Monday.
Fiers had thrown 109 pitches through seven. At that point, even though he was working on a no-hitter, A’s manager Bob Melvin told him if one more batter reached base he would be lifted from the game.
““It’s always tricky late in a game like that when a guy has a bunch of pitches,” Fiers said. “BoMel was definitely looking out for my health and the team as well. I’m just thankful for him to leave me in and trusting me. I felt great and everything was working. It wasn’t a matter of being tired. I had adrenaline at that point. It was just being myself and trusting Phegley behind the plate.”
Fiers amped it up from there, retiring the last six hitters to become the 35th pitcher in MLB history to throw multiple no-hitters. His first came in 2015 shortly after the Milwaukee Brewers traded him to the Houston Astros. He beat the Los Angeles Dodgers with a career-high 134 pitches.
Fiers is the eighth pitcher in MLB history to throw a no-hitter with multiple teams: Nolan Ryan did it with three (three). Cy Young, Randy Johnson, Adonis Terry, Jim Bunning, Ted Breitenstein and Hideo Nomo did it for two clubs.
Fiers is the fifth pitcher still in MLB to have multiple no-hitters, joining Justin Verlander, Jake Arrieta, Homer Bailey and Max Scherzer.
“It was impressive to watch but tough to watch for us,” Reds manager David Bell said. “It’s one game but you have to give him a lot of credit. You don’t see this very often, especially anymore. To do it against our lineup is very impressive.”
Fiers beat the Reds with 131 pitches, walking two, striking out six and closing things out by getting Eugenio Suarez to whiff on a 2-2 curveball. Catcher Josh Phegley blocked the pitch in the dirt and applied the tag.
“It was a great night obviously for him, for our fans, everyone wants to see a no-hitter,” Melvin said. “It was no fun for me once he got past 120 pitches, I promise you that. But he deserved it.”
Here’s what we mean about Fiers, in terms of being considered an ace: His lifetime record is 57-58. He took the mound on Monday with a 2-3 record and 6.81 ERA, one of the worst in the game. According to STATS, aside from his no-hitters, he’s the first pitcher in MLB history to throw a no-hitter in both of his first two complete games.
“I’m just grateful to be here and get the opportunity to play,” said Fiers. “I remember when I was getting drafted I wasn’t too high on the charts. I was a guy throwing 88 to 90 [mph] in South Florida (he was a 22nd-round draft pick by the Brewers in 2009). I’m one in a million down there. … I’m just blessed to be here. You almost get emotional. I could be working a nine-to-five job, doing so many other things.”
As with most no hitters, Fiers received substantial help from his fielders. They made two exceptional plays in the sixth inning.
First, second baseman Jurickson Profar sprinted into short right field to grab a popup off the bat of Kyle Farmer. The next hitter, veteran Joey Votto, smacked one over the fence, only to see centerfielder Ramon Laureano leap the wall and bring it back in.
“You go out there wanting to go deep in the game and get the defense off the field as quick as possible,” said Fiers. “Some great plays by Profar and Laureano, and [catcher Josh] Phegley putting down the right signs.”