Oakland A’s: Mike Fiers opens–two shutout innings, one impossible

SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 27: Mike Fiers #50 of the Oakland Athletics tosses the ball after giving up a run in the third inning against the Seattle Mariners at T-Mobile Park on September 27, 2019 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Lindsey Wasson/Getty Images)
SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 27: Mike Fiers #50 of the Oakland Athletics tosses the ball after giving up a run in the third inning against the Seattle Mariners at T-Mobile Park on September 27, 2019 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Lindsey Wasson/Getty Images) /
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The Astrogate whistleblower let his pitching do the talking on Sunday, and it resulted in applause and silent Giants bats.

A few days before Astrogate whistleblower Mike Fiers took the mound to start an exhibition game against the San Francisco Giants, his Oakland Athletics teammates had a team meeting. And let him know they had his back now and forever.

“We can all see it on him that it was, probably, a long offseason [for him],” said outfielder Stephen Piscotty to MLB Network Radio last Thursday. “From my understanding, the report that was initially filed, four or five players came forward, but Mike was the one who was brave enough to put his name on it. It wasn’t like he just felt like going out and starting this.”

So the A’s rounded up. And gave Fiers a standing ovation. “We think the game is gonna be better than it was before,” Piscotty continued. “We think there’s an opportunity for baseball to get rid of [off-field based electronic cheating], this nasty thing.”

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Piscotty thinks Fiers’ whistleblowing might even have an impact on speeding games up. “It was ridiculous playing some games and having to run through three sign sets for the first pitch,” he said. “I think if guys have the confidence that no sign stealing is going on from an electronic standpoint, then guys are just gonna be able to throw down signs, get a rhythm, and play the game, speed up. Make it cleaner.”

When Fiers walked onto the field before Sunday’s start in Hohokam Stadium, he was greeted with applause. One fan was heard to shout, “Thank you, Mike, baseball loves you.” Another was seen holding a sign saying, “Fiers for President. Can I have the ball?” Other shout-outs from the stands included “You did the right thing!” and “We got your back!”

Fiers has said in recent days that he’d like nothing better than to get back to baseball almost strictly while adding that he’s not exactly intimidated by the death threats and other safety concerns surrounding him. Sunday afternoon was his first chance to do something strictly baseball, taking the mound and getting back to pitching.

Even in his first spring exhibition assignment, Fiers’s assignment would begin somewhat deliciously, with Mike Yastrzemski leading off for the Giants. The whistleblower against the bomber who charmed the nation, even Red Sox Nation, when he hit one into the center field seats last year with his Hall of Fame grandfather Carl Yastrzemski in the ballpark.

Those who think Fiers is nothing more than a rat fink probably hoped Yastrzemski greeted him by hitting the first pitch into earth orbit. If it happened that way, the public humiliation of being hit for distance would have been nothing compared to the noisy debate over Fiers since he blew the Astrogate whistle last November.

It didn’t happen. Fiers threw Yastrzemski something up and in and Yastrzemski whacked it on the ground to shortstop Marcus Semien taking it behind second base. Then, he dropped three straight called strikes to former Met and Diamondback Wilmer Flores. And then Fiers got former Padre Alex Dickerson to ground out to second on the first pitch Dickerson saw. Five pitches, three swift outs. Nothing to it, folks.

Semien led off the Oakland A’s first working a four-pitch walk from Giants starter Andrew Suarez. Tony Kemp—the former Astro who said credibly that he’d never asked for stolen signs during his September 2017 cup of coffee and the request was heeded—lined out to left on the first pitch. Matt Chapman, the A’s all-world third baseman, struck out swinging on three pitches, Matt Olson forced Semien out at second for the side, and the earth didn’t open up and swallow anyone alive.

Fiers went back to work for a second inning. Joe McCarthy, a former Tampa Bay hand starting in right field for the Giants, popped out on the first pitch. Starting Giants catcher Tyler Heineman lined the first pitch to right for an out. And second baseman Yolmer Sanchez fouled the first pitch out beyond third base.

Three up, three down, three strikeouts, nine pitches is known as the immaculate inning. What’s three up, three down, three pitches, then, the improbable inning? If it is, Fiers pitched it. It happened only three times last season and, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, eight from 2015-2019. It’s a shame it won’t count in the record books.

Suarez shook away a two-out single in the bottom of the second, but Fiers’ day was done when Jake Diekman took over for the top of the third. The rest of the game probably doesn’t matter all that much even on spring training terms. (Except maybe to Diekman, whose own first pitch—to Abiatal Avelino, a youthful shortstop prospect—was hit promptly enough over the left field fence.)

Not compared to Fiers’ first post-Astrogate coming-out party.

The only man in baseball willing, at last, to put his name on the record about the Astro Intelligence Agency—after he, his team, and other players tried getting the word about the AIA out long before, or complaining to baseball’s administration about it, and getting nowhere fast in either event—got nothing but justice.

He got applause. He got supportive signs in the stands. He took the mound, went to work, shook up an off-season’s worth of unruly brickbats and threats, appreciated the support from his teammates and from everyone else who sees him for what he truly is, and pitched like an ace of aces.

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Even against a Giants lineup that wasn’t exactly chock full of regulars, that’s something to consider proudly. Sometimes the Elysian Fields gods do confer proper justice upon the just, after all.