Athletics

Tanner Roark continues to pay off for A's, stymies Yankees in 5-3 win

Tanner Roark continues to pay off for A's, stymies Yankees in 5-3 win

The A's were rumored to be in the mix for some of the star pitchers available at the MLB trade deadline last month. Instead, they ended up with Tanner Roark.

And, as evidenced in their 5-3 win over the Yankees on Thursday night at Oakland Coliseum, one could make the case the A's are better off.

Roark posted his third consecutive quality start, limiting the Bronx Bombers to seven hits and two runs over 6 1/3 innings while striking out seven. The end result? The completion of a sweep of the best team in the AL.

The A's finished off that sweep without closer Liam Hendriks, who got the night off after completing a five-out save Wednesday. Perhaps even more impressive, Oakland did so without the aid of a single home run.

The sweep comes on the heels of another impressive series, in which the A's took three of four from the AL West-leading Astros, who sit just a single victory behind New York for the league’s best record.

Six wins in seven games -- well, it's actually seven in eight -- is impressive enough. To do so against top-level competition is difficult to overlook.

"It shows what kind of clubhouse we have, what kind of guys we have in here," Roark told reporters after the win. "Sticking together and trusting one another that if someone doesn't do the job the first time, someone else will pick them up the next time. That's what it's all about."

To acquire Roark from the Reds, the A's had to part with top-10 prospect Jameson Hannah. It likely would have cost considerably more for Oakland to land one of the available stars, but even that price might have seemed a little steep at the time.

Not anymore.

In each of his four starts with the A’s, Roark has gone at least five innings without allowing more than two earned runs (for a total of seven). In his previous four starts with Cincinnati, he never once topped five innings, and never allowed fewer than two runs (for a total of 16).

With the A's completing the sweep, and the Indians suffering a three-game sweep at the hands of the Mets, Oakland jumped into the lead for the first AL wild-card spot, just percentage points ahead of Tampa Bay. The Reds, on the other hand, won't come close to sniffing the playoff.

[RELATED: Khrush hopes opposite-field homer can break brutal slump]

Clearly, Roark has responded well to his new environment, and should the A's succeed in their pursuit of a wild-card spot, one has to imagine he'll be a lot happier than he would’ve been had there not been a trade.

If Roark keeps this up, you can bet the A's will feel the same way, too.

Joakim Soria rewarding A's offseason faith during MLB playoffs push

Joakim Soria rewarding A's offseason faith during MLB playoffs push

OAKLAND -- To say that this season hasn't gone as Joakim Soria had hoped would be an understatement.

The A's had high expectations when they signed the veteran reliever to a two-year, $15 million contract in the offseason. After all, Soria recorded a 3.12 ERA in 66 games last season between the Chicago White Sox and Milwaukee Brewers in 2018, striking out 75 batters in 60 2/3 innings.

This year has been a completely different story. Soria, 35, is just 1-4 with a 4.50 ERA, the worst of his 12-year career. Recently, however, Soria has shown glimpses of his All-Star days.

After missing nine games earlier this month with inflammation in his elbow, Soria has looked like a completely different pitcher. In two appearances since returning, the right-hander has tossed two perfect innings with four strikeouts.

"I felt good," Soria told NBC Sports California on Friday after the A's 8-0 win over the Texas Rangers at the Coliseum. "Everything was working right and hopefully it continues that way."

Soria's velocity was up as well Friday, even hitting 95 mph with his four-seam fastball. He was dominant on back-to-back nights.

"I think it was getting healthy," said A's manager Bob Melvin. "His workload was extreme. You know, this is not a 21-year-old. He's (had two) Tommy John (surgeries). We used him a lot. I think the break did help him. Obviously, we don't want to see anyone get a little nicked up like he was, but I do think the break helped him and it looks like all of his pitches are fired up again."

[RELATED: Fiers makes strong case to start wild-card game for A's]

If Soria could find his old form, it would provide an incredible boost for the A's bullpen down the stretch and into the postseason. It certainly wouldn't be the first time a pitcher has struggled during the regular season only to catch fire during the playoffs -- think Barry Zito with the Giants in 2012.

"It's always good to get back healthy and throw good outings," Soria said. "It's really good for your mental point of view."

Soria now has has struck out six in 4 2/3 scoreless innings in September, allowing just one hit and one walk. Sure, that's a small sample size, but it's still a promising development for the A's ahead of their playoff push.

Mike Fiers makes case to start AL wild-card game in A's win vs. Rangers

mikefiersathleticsrangersap.jpg
AP

Mike Fiers makes case to start AL wild-card game in A's win vs. Rangers

OAKLAND -- I guess it's safe to say that Mike Fiers' hand feels just fine.

After leaving his last start early with numbness in his pitching hand, the right-hander responded with eight scoreless innings Saturday night, allowing just two hits with five strikeouts, as the A's shut out the Rangers, 8-0.

"I felt fine," Fiers confirmed after the game. "Just a sigh of relief that everything was good, so now (I have) peace of mind that I can go back out there and pitch."

Fiers improved to 15-4 on the season, marking the most wins by an A's pitcher since Scott Kazmir won 15 in 2014. He also looked like the Mike Fiers we've seen for most of the year, following three straight disappointing outings where he allowed 16 earned runs in 7 2/3 innings.

"The last three starts haven't been ideal, so I wanted to show these guys I've still got it," Fiers said. "When you have those starts back-to-back-to-back, only going one inning in two of those games, it just looks bad. It's a bad look. Everyone's throwing well, so if I do that, it might set in their mind that, 'Hey, we need to get this guy some more work.' So coming out today, I needed to make a statement and show them I could still pitch and (I'm) still the guy out there fighting."

Fiers, 34, has been especially effective at the Coliseum this season. In 16 home starts, he has gone 9-1 with a 2.54 ERA.

"(He has) a lot of confidence," said A's manager Bob Melvin. "When he takes the mound here, you know he feels good, and the numbers would suggest that. It's a really good ballpark for him. When he's got all his pitches going like he did tonight -- his slider and changeup with his fastball and curveball -- he's a tough guy to deal with."

"I like pitching here. I feel comfortable," Fiers said. "The weather's great. It's not humid. It just feels like home and I love pitching here. I think the confidence is just a little bit higher. I love it here."

[RELATED: Beane vows to enjoy playoff run]

That certainly makes Fiers an intriguing option to start the AL Wild Card Game, especially if it's in Oakland. While the A's lead the Rays and Indians by just two games in that race, Fiers admits to looking forward to that opportunity.

"Everyone wants to make it tough on Bob (Melvin) to choose who it's going to be or what plan we're going to go with," Fiers said. "But it's all about winning that game today."