Mike Fiers

A's pitcher Mike Fiers reveals Astros would steal signs electronically

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AP

A's pitcher Mike Fiers reveals Astros would steal signs electronically

The AL powerhouse Houston Astros have long been suspected of stealing signs, but new information came to light Tuesday.

In a feature from The Athletic, Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich reported that the Astros used a camera in center field during their 2017 World Series run to help steal signs electronically.

Yankees star Aaron Judge summed up the report succinctly.

A's pitcher Mike Fiers was on that Astros team, and earned a World Series ring of his own. Now with Oakland, he not only confirmed the setup of technology but also commented on how it was affecting the game. 

“I don’t know if we really had any hard proof, but I’m sure there was (some evidence of other teams’ conduct),” Fiers told The Athletic. “Going into the playoffs, we had veterans like Brian McCann -- we went straight to multiple signs (with our pitchers). We weren’t going to mess around. We were sure there were teams out there that were trying certain things to get an edge and win ballgames. I wouldn’t say there was hard evidence. But it’s hard to catch teams at home. There are so many things you can use to win at home.”

Fiers then added how there were some players who didn't like it, as they would prefer not to know what was coming. But clearly, there were guys that benefitted as well.

“I just want the game to be cleaned up a little bit because there are guys who are losing their jobs because they’re going in there not knowing,” Fiers said. 

After the story was released, the Astros released the following statement:

A former player told NBC Sports California on Tuesday most teams participate in stealing signs in some fashion, but the Astros flirt with the line of what is legal and what is not.

"The Astros are super talented," the player said. "But ... they will do whatever they need to do to get an edge."

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"In my honest opinion, they got beat by their old bench coach Alex Cora," he continued. "He knew all the Astros secrets, weaknesses, everything. Then, this year it seemed like the Astros only hit well when pitchers were tipping pitches. It happened with [Stephen] Strasburg the first two innings of Game 6. He cleaned it up in between innings and Houston couldn't hit him."

"Teams steal signs, it's been happening for years," the former player added. "Astros take it to another level."

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Mike Fiers doesn't second guess A's decision to start Sean Manaea

Mike Fiers doesn't second guess A's decision to start Sean Manaea

For the second year in a row, the A's are going home after just one playoff game. For the second year in a row, manager Bob Melvin elected not to give the ball to Mike Fiers to get his team through the AL Wild Card Game.

Last season, Melvin opted for the opened strategy, giving the ball to Liam Hendriks at Yankee Stadium. On Wednesday, Melvin chose to give left-hander Sean Manaea the start against the Tampa Bay Rays. Manaea pitched well in September, but was hit hard with everything on the line, giving up four runs on four hits across two-plus innings of work as the Rays claimed a 5-1 victory at the Coliseum to advance to the American League Division Series.

As is custom when decisions backfire, the Twitter managers immediately questioned Melvin's decision not to start Fiers as soon as Yandy Diaz led off the game with a solo home run off Manaea. 

Fiers, however, didn't second guess Melvin's choice to not give him the ball with the season at stake.

“You could always look back and say, ‘You should have done this or you should have done that,’ but Manaea has pitched very well for us, and everyone was behind him and excited he was pitching," Fiers said after the game, via Susan Slusser of The San Francisco Chronicle.

Results aside, Melvin made the right call in starting Manaea.

Manaea posted a 1.21 ERA and 0.77 WHIP in September. He was the clear choice and few questioned the move before Diaz hammered the fifth pitch of the night into the Coliseum stands.

[RELATED: A's can't explain disappearing offense vs. Rays]

To think Fiers, a fly-ball pitcher in his own right, would have been immune to giving up the three round-trippers as Manaea did Wednesday is a fool's errand, something only taken up by those looking for a reason for another early October exit from the Green and Gold. 

Manaea fell flat in the big moment, but the A's offense mustered just one run on eight hits. Oakland's failure in another elimination game falls just as much on Matt Chapman, Marcus Semien and Co. as it does Manaea and Melvin's decision to give him the start.

The right call was made. Sometimes it just doesn't go your way.

Why A's should start surging Sean Manaea in AL Wild Card Game vs. Rays

Why A's should start surging Sean Manaea in AL Wild Card Game vs. Rays

We now know the A's will face the Tampa Bay Rays in the AL Wild Card Game on Wednesday night. We also know that Tampa Bay will start right-hander Charlie Morton, who made his second straight All-Star Game this season.

What we don't know is which pitcher the A's will choose as their starter. Oakland has two good options -- right-hander Mike Fiers and lefty Sean Manaea. However, what once seemed like a difficult decision is now much more clear. Manaea is the right choice.

After missing the first five months of the season recovering from shoulder surgery, Manaea has been nearly unhittable in September. In five starts, he has gone 4-0 with a 1.21 ERA and 0.78 WHIP, with 30 strikeouts compared to seven walks.

Meanwhile, Fiers has struggled in his five September starts, going 1-1 with a 7.84 ERA. Sure, much of that damage took place in Houston, where he allowed nine earned runs in just one inning. But even in his four other starts, Fiers' ERA was 4.12.

Fiers had an incredible run in the middle of the season, winning 12 straight decisions. Unfortunately, he has really only been sharp in one of his last five starts. Manaea, on the other hand, has been a model of consistency, even going back to his rehab starts in Triple-A.

You could argue that Oakland should save Manaea for Game 1 of the ALDS in Houston, a place that has given Fiers nightmares this season. It's certainly a logical argument, but the Rays are playing too well to look past them in the Wild Card Game.

Tampa Bay has won seven of its last eight games and 15 of its last 20. Morton, in particular, has owned the A's this season, allowing just one run in 13 1/3 innings. The A's don't have the luxury of looking ahead to the ALDS.

If you're thinking about the Rays' lefty-righty splits, they're nearly identical. Tampa Bay has a .255/.326/.422 slash line against southpaws, compared to .254/.326/.437 against righties. Not much help there.

[RELATED: A's forget about loss to Mariners celebrating second straight playoff berth]

Fiers did fare well against the Rays in two starts this season, going 1-0 with a 2.25 ERA, but last season he was 0-1 with a 6.75 ERA. Plus, Tampa Bay hasn't seen Manaea this year, which could be an even greater advantage for Oakland.

Wherever the AL Wild Card Game is played, the A's have to go with their absolute best option on the mound. Right now, that's Sean Manaea.