Luzardo Pitches Three Innings of Relief in Loss to Dodgers as Athletics `Keep Options Open'
The A’s had a special guest come out of the bullpen Thursday night.
Jesús Luzardo, who hadn’t pitched in relief since July 29, threw the final three innings for the A’s in a 5-1 loss to the Dodgers, picking up for Mike Fiers, who went the first five innings, allowing two runs.
Manager Bob Melvin said it was all about keeping Luzardo on his regular every-fifth-day routine and keeping him ready for the American League Wild Card series that begins in the Coliseum Tuesday once an opponent is determined.
The A’s, current the third seed in the American League, would face the sixth seed, currently Houston.
The way the Tuesday opener sets up, the A’s could go with Sean Manaea, pitching with an extra day’s rest, or with Fiers or Luzardo, both who would be on regular rest.
“This was to keep our options open at the end,” Melvin said. “We’re trying to keep as many options open to figure out what we want to do in the postseason. And obviously this is another option for us.”
Luzardo didn’t show much early, missing with his pitches and getting the strikes hammered. The Dodgers went double, double, walk, single walk before Luzardo settled in and retired nine of the final 10 men he faced.
Fiers knew going in that he wouldn’t be going deep into the game with the A’s wanting to get Luzardo work. He wound up throwing five innings. He gave up hits to three of the first five men he faded, then allowed just two hits the rest of his time on the mound. And he, like Luzardo and Manaea would be an option for the wild card series.
“I think they want to see who we face first,” Fiers said. “I’m ready to pitch whenever, whatever the team feels is our best chance. It’s all about matchups and, you know, putting the best lineup out there and the best starter out there.”
If it is Houston, it’s possible the A’s may want to go with Luzardo over Fiers in the first round. It’s true that Luzardo started two Oakland wins against Houston, but that’s only part of the story.
Fiers didn’t face the Astros this year after an offseason in which he blew the whistle on Houston’s sign-stealing in 2017 which cost the team a $5 million fine and led to the firing of the manager A.J. Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow. It’s possible that the A’s don’t want Fiers to face the Astros but would be more than happy to have him face the Indians or White Sox if one of those two turns out to be the A’s opponent in the wild card round.
The two runs Fiers allowed and the three off Luzardo allowed didn’t particularly make much difference. The Dodgers started Walker Buehler, back after having blister problems, and had him go four innings before giving five relievers one inning each. The pitcher didn’t seem to matter. Oakland got just three hits, the last of which was a homer by Sean Murphy one out into the eighth inning, by which time Oakland was in a 5-0 hole.
The A’s offense has been in sad shape for more than a week. Oakland hasn’t gotten more than six hits in any of its last eight games, and so anytime the Oakland pitching staff isn’t throwing zeroes on the scoreboard, the A’s are in hot water.
Oakland batters struck out a season-high 16 times, including two by Tommy La Stella, who’d struck out twice in 80 at-bats for the A’s before striking out three times in the last two games.
Still, La Stella said “I like where we’re at (offensively)” heading into the postseason.
For all of that, the A’s have had enough pitching to go 4-4 during this down offensive stretch and have locked down at least the No. 3 seed in the American League. Their win Wednesday moved them into the No. 2 seed position, percentage point behind the Twins, who were idle Thursday.
Oakland returns home for a four-game series against the Mariners to wrap up the regular season, including a Saturday doubleheader. Chris Bassitt pitches the opener Friday, but the starters after that are up in the air. Luzardo would have been a possibility, but that’s not happening now. Mike Minor probably gets one start Saturday, with the other game going to a pitcher promoted from the taxi squad.
Or Frankie Montas could get a start on short rest and be limited to four or five innings.
Like Melvin says, the A’s are keeping all their options open.
Follow Athletics insider John Hickey on Twitter: @JHickey3
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