Athletics

With family on his mind, Cotton provides lift with some huge help in A's win

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USATSI

With family on his mind, Cotton provides lift with some huge help in A's win

BOSTON — Utilizing his platform as a major leaguer, Jharel Cotton is doing his part to help with hurricane relief in the Caribbean.

On Wednesday night, his A’s teammates provided him a boost as well.

Cotton navigated through trouble to make it through five innings, benefiting from some early offense, a stout bullpen and one very heady defensive play by Matt Olson to get the victory as the A’s beat the Red Sox 7-3 at Fenway Park.

The win snapped an eight-game road losing streak for the A’s, and it gave Cotton just his second win of the season in a night game. He came in with a 1-7 record and 8.00 ERA in 11 starts under the lights.

“I wasn’t thinking about it too much,” Cotton said. “I just wanted to come in and give my team a chance to win.”

Cotton (8-10) has concerns on his mind beyond his pitching. He took the mound Wednesday with the inscription “VI/BVI Strong” written on his cap, short for “Virgin Islands/British Virgin Islands Strong.” He was born on St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands and spent a big chunk of his childhood on Tortola in the British Virgin Islands, and he’s very much aware of the destructive damage done by Hurricane Irma throughout the Caribbean.

Cotton’s father had the roof blown off his house and his uncle suffered similar damage to his home, though Cotton’s relatives all remained safe. In the immediate aftermath of the hurricane, Cotton started a GoFundMe page to raise money for relief efforts. He’s raised more than $12,000 so far.

“It means a lot to me because that’s where I grew up,” he said. “There’s a lot of people back there that need a lot of help, and for me to be on the stage I’m on right now to do that is pretty awesome.”

Cotton was making his first career start against Boston, and his teammates staked him to a four-run lead in the first before he even took the mound. It was a 6-2 game in the third when the Sox loaded the bases with one out. Mitch Moreland hit a bouncer to Olson at first, and the rookie alertly took the out at first and then fired home to nail Dustin Pedroia trying to score for an inning-ending double play.

That play had A’s manager Bob Melvin marveling at Olson’s defensive acumen for a 23-year-old.

“It was the kind of situation where if they hit it hard at you, you can go to second and turn two,” Olson said. “But it wasn’t hit that great. It took me a little toward the bag. You just improvise a bit (with) momentum heading that way.”

Liam Hendriks, Daniel Coulombe, Ryan Dull, Chris Hatcher and Blake Treinen combined for four scoreless innings to close it out as the A’s won for the sixth time in seven games.

Cotton hardly was overpowering, giving up three runs on six hits over his five innings. But he helped the A’s snap a seven-game losing streak at Fenway, their longest since an eight-gamer that bridged 1996 and 1997.

“He definitely had to battle through some stuff a couple times to where we were on the verge of getting him out, and he ended up getting some double plays from some pretty good hitters,” Melvin said. “You look at the box score, and it doesn’t tell you how he battled.”

A's notes: Oakland completes best 50-game stretch since 2005

A's notes: Oakland completes best 50-game stretch since 2005

OAKLAND — On June 15, the A's were 34-36, 11 games out of a playoff spot. Since then, all they've done is rattle off 38 wins against 12 losses, their best 50-game stretch in 13 years. Even more incredible, 20 of those 38 wins have been of the comeback variety, and 14 have seen the winning run scored in the eighth inning or later. Oakland has only lost one of its last 17 series (14-1-2), moving within a game of first-place Houston in the AL West.

--- The A's won their 65th straight game when leading at the end of the seventh inning, matching the longest such streak in franchise history (July 21, 1927 – June 23, 1928). Oakland is 50-0 this season when leading at the end of the seventh, and 59-0 when leading at the end of the eighth.

--- Matt Chapman doubled and walked to extend his career-high on-base streak to 28 games. It's the longest active streak in the American League. Chapman also extended his career-high hitting streak to 12 games.

--- Marcus Semien hit his third home run in the last four games. He is 9 for his last 17 with three home runs, six RBI, and seven runs scored.

--- Jonathan Lucroy threw out Dee Gordon attempting to steal second base in the eighth inning. Lucroy leads MLB with 22 runners caught stealing this season.

--- The A's have won 11 of their last 12 home games, and 17 of their last 20. For the season, Oakland is 35-23 at the Coliseum.

--- The A's improved to 25-10 in one-run games, the best record in MLB. Seattle fell to 30-16 in one-run contests.

--- Felix Hernandez made his first career relief appearance after making 398 starts. Only Mike Mussina made more career starts before his first relief appearance.

Mike Fiers battles through injury to earn first win with A's

Mike Fiers battles through injury to earn first win with A's

OAKLAND — In the hours leading up to first pitch Tuesday night, Bob Melvin wasn't even sure Mike Fiers would be his starting pitcher.

“He almost didn't make the start,” Melvin said after the game. “He had a lower back/upper glute issue. I had two (lineup) cards made out. I had potentially (Yusmeiro) Petit starting that game.”

Fortunately Fiers was able to battle through the injury and pitch six strong innings, earning his first win as a member of the Athletics.

“I was fine,” Fiers said. “Everyone's not 100 percent this part of the season, but I was fine. I just had a little something going on, but nothing serious at all.”

After allowing a run in the first inning, Fiers settled in and allowed just one more run in the next five innings. He struck out five batters, without issuing a walk.

“The first couple of innings, I was a little worried about him,” Melvin admitted. “He seemed to loosen up and get better as the game went along. But to think that he was going to give us six innings -- he was pitching on adrenaline.”

“I didn't feel anything,” Fiers said. “I just had a little muscle cramp. It was nothing. I just had to stretch and get a little active warmup in, and it went away.”

Fiers has allowed three runs or fewer in each of his last nine starts, lowering his ERA from 4.29 to 3.38. In two starts with the A's, he has given up just three runs in 11 1/3 innings, for an ERA of 2.38, with 13 strikeouts and no walks.

“They all feel like playoff games,” Fiers said. “This is the spot I wanted to be in. I wanted to be on a team that's winning and heading for the playoffs.”

Fiers has already helped the A's in their playoff push, and he figures to be a vital piece the rest of the season.

“To have a guy go out there and give us a quality start, we're going to need that down the stretch,” said second baseman Jed Lowrie.

“He just goes out there and competes, throws strikes, and goes after guys,” added third baseman Matt Chapman. “It's fun to play defense behind a guy like that.”

“I feel like this team has a lot of trust in me,” Fiers said. “I don't want to let them down. I want to pitch well and give them everything I've got.”