By JOSH DUBOW AP Sports Writer
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — A light malfunction almost stopped Mike Fiers’ night from getting started. A high pitch count nearly prevented him from finishing it.
Good thing Fiers was allowed to take the mound and stay there all game because he made history doing it.
Fiers overcame the early delay and managed the high workload to pitch his second no-hitter of his career, getting help from two spectacular defensive plays from his Oakland Athletics teammates to shut down the Cincinnati Reds 2-0 Tuesday night.
“Amazing. That’s really all I can really say,” Fiers said. “Things like this just happen.”
This one almost didn’t.
A bank of lights in left field was only partially lit before the scheduled start of the game, leading to a delay of more than 90 minutes before the teams and umpires determined there was enough light to play a full game.
Then after getting through seven innings with 109 pitches, Fiers was told by manager Bob Melvin that one more baserunner would end his night even if he still hadn’t allowed a hit. He then breezed through the final two innings, following up his 2015 gem for Houston against the Dodgers with a 131-pitch masterpiece to become the 35th pitcher with multiple no-hitters in his career.
“I’m just really thankful for him leaving me in and trusting me,” Fiers said. “I told him I felt great. I felt like everything was working. It wasn’t a matter of being tired. I had adrenaline at that point.”
He walked two, struck out six and ended the 300th no-hitter ever in the majors by fanning Eugenio Suarez with a big curveball.
The A’s poured out of the dugout to mob Fiers in celebration after the final out in front of a few thousand fans remaining after the lengthy delay. Fiers tipped his hat to the crowd and raised his arms in triumph as he walked off.
“It was a great night obviously for him, for our fans, everyone wants to see a no-hitter,” Melvin said. “It was no fun for me once he got past 120 pitches, I promise you that. But he deserved it.
The 33-year-old Fiers (3-3) raised his lifetime record to 57-58. The right-hander began the night with a 6.81 ERA this season, and has been a journeyman for much of his career.
A journeyman with a special place in the record book, that is.
“It’s pretty cool,” Fiers said. “I saw a little bit of the list. I’m just grateful to be here and get the opportunity to play. I remember when I was getting drafted I wasn’t too high on the charts. I was a guy throwing 88 to 90 (mph) down in South Florida. I’m one in a million down there. … I’m just blessed to be here.”
The first no-hitter of the 2019 season didn’t come without tense moments as Fiers was bailed out by back-to-back great defensive plays in the sixth inning. Second baseman Jurickson Profar ran a long way to making a diving catch on Kyle Farmer’s popup into short right field for the second out, prompting Fiers to throw up his arms in celebration.
Joey Votto followed that with a deep drive, but flashy center fielder Ramon Laureano reached above the fence to pull the ball back and rob the Reds star of a home run.
“Ramon’s catch he’s done that once or twice. That’s a normal play for him,” Fiers said. “Profar, another amazing play.”
This was the 13th no-hitter in the history of the Athletics franchise, which started in Philadelphia, moved to Kansas City and shifted to Oakland. Sean Manaea pitched the previous no-hitter for the A’s on April 21, 2018, at home against Boston.
Manaea, fittingly, gave Fiers an ice bath on the field when this one ended.
“It was way more nerve-wracking then I was doing it,” Manaea said. “I was shaking on the bench. I don’t know, it was crazy seeing him do it. It was awesome.”
The Reds were no-hit for the 10th time, most recently by Jake Arrieta of the Cubs in 2016.
Fiers became the seventh pitcher to throw no-hitters for multiple teams — Nolan Ryan, Randy Johnson and Cy Young are among the others. Ryan pitched a record seven no-hitters overall.
Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander, Homer Bailey and Arrieta are the other active big leaguers with two no-hitters. Fiers clearly was aware of what was at stake in the later innings.
“I knew. I don’t like when guys are like they don’t know,” Fiers said.
The no-hitter came almost exactly a year after the past one in the majors, by James Paxton for Seattle at Toronto last May 8.
Fiers issued his only two walks in the seventh, but also got Jesse Winker to hit into a double play. Fiers needed only nine pitches to get through the eighth and zipped through the ninth, retiring rookie Josh VanMeter on a popup, getting Votto on a routine grounder and striking out Suarez.
A’s catcher Josh Phegley neatly blocked the last pitch and tagged Suarez to make it official.
“I felt like he was hitting with all his pitches where he wanted it and when he wanted it,” Phegley said.
Fiers’ other no-hitter came on Aug. 21, 2015, in Houston, three weeks after being traded from Milwaukee to the Astros. He threw a career-high 134 pitches in that game.
The only other Reds batter to reach was Winker, who got aboard on an error by Gold Glove third baseman Matt Chapman in the fourth. Chapman was near second base on a defensive shift and the grounder hit off his glove and landed in the outfield.
The game started after a 98-minute delay because of a lighting problem at the Coliseum. A bank of lights above the upper deck in left field had been only partially lit, causing the delay. Those lights began to flicker on as the game started.
Fiers, however, turned them out on the Reds.
“It was impressive to watch but tough to watch for us,” manager David Bell said. “It’s one game but you have to give him a lot of credit. You don’t see this very often, especially anymore. To do it against our lineup is very impressive.”
It was the second straight day the Reds have had a game delayed at the start because of unusual circumstances. Their game against the San Francisco Giants on Monday in Cincinnati was briefly halted due to a swarm of bees.
The A’s scored in the second against Tyler Mahle (1-6) when Stephen Piscotty raced home on Profar’s double into the right field corner. Profar added a solo homer in the seventh.
Reds: LHP Alex Wood will not throw for two weeks after getting a second opinion on his back injury.
Athletics: 1B Matt Olson went 0 for 3 in his first game back since undergoing surgery on his right hand. . DH Khris Davis was a late scratch because of a left hip contusion. The slugger bruised his hip when he ran into the railing near left field at Pittsburgh on Sunday. . Manaea threw all fastballs during a 20-pitch bullpen session, his first since shoulder surgery last September.
RHP Sonny Gray (0-4, 3.89 ERA) starts for the Reds on Wednesday in his first appearance at the Coliseum for the first time since 2017. The former A’s ace won 44 games during 4 ½ seasons in the majors with Oakland before being traded to the New York Yankees. Gray allowed five runs in five innings in his only appearance against the A’s on May 11, 2018. Oakland counters with LHP Brett Anderson (4-2, 3.89).
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By JOSH DUBOW AP Sports Writer