OAKLAND - Despite Friday's disappointing 3-2 loss to the Houston Astros, the A's did find a bright spot in starting pitcher Mike Fiers.
The veteran right-hander pitched 6 2/3 strong innings, giving up just two runs on four hits en route to his third consecutive quality start.
"I thought he was good, real economical early on too," A's manager Bob Melvin said after the game. "He mixed all his of pitches, pitched up and down, and the curveball kept them off balance."
Fiers appears to be back on track after a brutal start to the season. In his first six outings, the 33-year-old allowed 23 earned runs in just 25 innings for an 8.28 ERA. Since then, he has made seven starts and surrendered just 14 earned runs in 44 2/3 frames, posting an ERA of 2.82.
"I'm back to how I throw the ball," Fiers said. "It just feels like I'm pitching. I'm not doing anything different, just changing speeds and trying to keep them off balance. I'm pretty much just throwing the pitches the way I want to."
Fiers finally looks like the pitcher Oakland saw late last season -- not flashy or overpowering, but consistent and effective. Friday night marked his seventh straight start allowing three runs or fewer. Of course, that streak also includes a no-hitter.
"Anytime you throw a no-hitter, you're going to gain some confidence from that," Melvin said. "He's been pretty consistent here as the season has gone along. He's not a max-effort guy, which allows him to maintain himself the whole season. Sometimes guys who throw really hard get a little worn out at times, but it seems like he's getting stronger as he goes along."
Fiers credits a more aggressive approach for sparking his turnaround. Even though he doesn't have dominant stuff, he still likes to attack the strike zone and challenge hitters to beat him.
"When I'm aggressive, I'm a lot better than pitching kind of passive and waiting for them to make the move," Fiers explained. "It's all about pounding the zone and making quality pitches."
While Friday's defeat certainly stings, Fiers' reemergence softens the blow a bit. If he can continue to pitch this effectively, Oakland's starting rotation will get a big boost heading into June.