OAKLAND – Mike Fiers was supposed to be the A's ace.
He certainly looked the part last season, going 5-2 with a 3.74 ERA after coming over from Detroit in early August. This year, however, has been a completely different story.
The Blue Jays treated Fiers like a punching bag Saturday afternoon, knocking the veteran right-hander around for six earned runs on nine hits in just 3 1/3 innings en route to a 10-1 victory at the Coliseum. Fiers has now allowed six earned runs in each of his last three starts and his season ERA has ballooned to 8.28.
"It's tough right now," said a dejected Fiers after Saturday's loss. "I'm just not doing anything right. That's what it feels like. For the team to be as good as we are, it's tough. It's a tough feeling to go out there and feel like you just make it harder for them every day."
The A's couldn't have seen this coming when they signed Fiers to a two-year, $14.1 million contract this offseason. The 33-year-old was coming off the best year of his career, finishing 12-8 with a 3.56 ERA between Detroit and Oakland.
"He pitched really well for us last year," said A's manager Bob Melvin. "We signed him for a reason. He's going through a rough stretch right now, but we fully expect him to go out and pitch better next time."
After an inauspicious season debut in Tokyo against the Mariners, Fiers appeared to right the ship with back-to-back outings of six innings and no earned runs. But in his three starts since then, he has surrendered 18 earned runs in just 10 innings, giving up 23 hits, including five home runs.
"I honestly don't know," Fiers said. "I'm kind of confused on what's going on and why I'm not getting the job done. But I'm going to come to the ballpark tomorrow and I'm going to work hard and get back to how I pitch."
Fiers seemed to be rolling along through the first two innings Saturday, retiring the first six batters he faced. He gave up a run in the third and then came the disastrous fourth. Single, single, home run, home run, double. In the blink of an eye, Toronto had blown the game wide open.
"Just some balls in the middle of the plate and up," Melvin said. "There's always a fine line with him on what's up and kind of his style and where he pitches, whether it's the top of the strike zone or a little bit lower. He got some balls in the middle of the plate and they hit them hard."
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While it's still early in the season, Fiers knows he has to get back on track as soon as possible. At the moment, he doesn't have any answers, but he vows to find them.
"I'm going to keep working," he promised. "I'm going to keep practicing every day, working on my pitches, working on things I'm doing wrong. But I need to figure it out pretty quick."