OAKLAND -- The date was April 20, 2019.
Mike Fiers had just been knocked around by the Toronto Blue Jays for six earned runs in 3 1/3 innings. It was the third straight outing he had allowed six earned runs. Fiers' ERA was 8.28. He simply was out of answers.
Fast forward two-and-a-half months and we are witnessing a completely different pitcher. Friday night at the Coliseum, the right-hander picked up his seventh straight win as the A's knocked off the White Sox, 5-1.
Fiers shut out the Chicago White Sox for 7 2/3 innings, resulting in a 10th straight quality start and 14th consecutive outing surrendering three runs or fewer. Suddenly, that 8.28 ERA from April is down to 3.61.
"It's just getting in a rhythm," Fiers explained Friday night. "Starting in spring training, I didn't feel like I was clicking. But it's a long season. The faster you figure it out, the fast you're going to be good."
Fiers has certainly figured it out. Since his May 7 no-hitter against the Cincinnati Reds, the 34-year-old is 7-0 with a sparkling 2.09 ERA.
"It's a lot of fun (playing behind him)," A's third baseman Matt Chapman said. "He throws a lot of strikes, he works quick, all the things you want from a pitcher when you're playing defense for him. He's coming out and giving us a chance to win every time he pitches."
It's the consistent strike-throwing that has really allowed Fiers to flourish. He has only issued nine walks in his last seven starts ,and it seems like he hasn't left a single pitch over the heart of the plate.
"The biggest thing is not giving free passes," Fiers said. "Every kid I teach or talk to about pitching, the first thing is command. It takes you a long way. You can throw it as hard as you want, but if you throw it right down the middle every time, you're going to get hurt, especially at this level. So for me, it's about hitting the corners, going up, down, out, in, and just keeping them off balance, throwing a bunch of strikes and expanding once I get to two strikes."
Fiers has a handful of pitches in his repertoire, none of them terribly overwhelming from a velocity standpoint. His fastball sits in the low-90s, but his movement and location make it an effective pitch.
"He doesn't have an overpowering fastball velocity-wise, but it spins pretty well, and up in the zone, it's tough for anybody to catch up to," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "He throws his curveball out of the same spot, so he can pitch up and down very effectively, and now even a little bit more side to side with the cutter. And he throws the sinker every now and then. ... He might not strike out 10 guys and overpower you, but in his own way, he does. Next thing you know, he's in the seventh or eighth inning and has a lead."
In a results-based business, that's all you can ask for. Fiers only struck out four batters Friday night, and his season-high is just six.
But with his command and movement, not to mention a top-notch defense behind him, that style works just fine for the A's.