A’s lose opening series finale to Chicago

A gem from Chicago White Sox starter Mat Latos, and a two-run homer from Jose Abreu, too much as the Oakland Athletics dropped game four and the series Thursday.

After five strong innings, A’s (1-3) starter Kendall Graveman lost knee-high command of his sinker.

Control issues led to a lead-off walk of Melky Cabrera before another elevated sinker was crushed by the first baseman Abreu for an opposite-field jack, breaking the scoreless tie.

Latos, who fired a six one-hit, shut-out innings made the bomb stand up as the White Sox (3-1) claimed the 6-1 win. Graveman finished with 5 1/3 innings, allowing two runs on three hits and one walk.

He also struck out four batters, being saddled with the loss.

This story has been updated with quotes and post-game material from the A’s clubhouse at the Oakland Coliseum.

Despite the loss manager Bob Melvin said after the game, he thought Graveman looked good:

“Terrific. He makes on mistake, I think it was a back-door sinker that drifted over a little bit, it’s a home run. … But he broke a lot of bats, had a lot of good movement. We just didn’t give him any support.”

The starter who displayed excellent command, along with that movement, through the first five innings seemed lost in the sixth, walking Cabrera on four pitches before coughing up the round-tripper.

Despite suffering from flu-like symptoms earlier this week, Graveman said his sudden missed locations were a matter of focus and not health:

“You get through five you’re fine. You just got to continue to get outs, and continue to make pitches down in the zone. You can’t elevate a pitch there to a good hitter, especially a good hitter with power.”

Latos had no control issues, on the other hand.

Chris Coghlan broke up his no-hit bid with one out in the fifth. After a Yonder Alonso fly out, Marcus Semien walked setting Coco Crisp up with the A’s first at-bat with a runner in scoring position — combined 7-for-30 coming in to the game.

Crisp appeared to have a run-scoring single up the middle but former A, second baseman Brett Lawrie made a great diving snag and flip to shortstop  Tyler Saladino.

Oakland built an even more promising rally in the seventh — this one against reliever Zach Duke.

A lead-off walk from Danny Valencia, and a wild pitch from Duke, was followed by a line-drive single from Stephen Vogt, moving Valencia to third. After a Coghlan strikeout, though, reliever Matt Albers came in to get pinch-hitters Mark Canha and Andrew Lambo, ending the A’s threat.

Of the A’s struggling offense (now 9-for-38 with runners in scoring position), Vogt said:

“We need to be better for Kendall, when he’s throwing that well. … This team is going to hit, we’re going to catch our stride here. This team is going to hit, and we feel good about that.”

After the South-Siders piled on, handing the A’s bullpen its first rough inning — four runs on six hits against Liam Hendriks — in the eighth, the green and gold got on the board. A single from Coghlan, driving in Valencia, was the final hit, offering the game’s final score.

Although Hendriks struggled from the get-go, allowing singles to four of the first five hitters he faced, Melvin said that the ninth was his inning no matter what. “Sometimes the last guy in knows he’s got to wear it a little bit,” the skipper said as three of his top relievers were unavailable, as his squad will play 10 games before its first day off.

Next up in that stretch will come in Seattle as Melvin will hand the ball to Eric Surkamp, who gets the start in place of injured Felix Doubront, against Mariners righty Taijuan Walker. The A’s first divisional game is scheduled for a 7:10 p.m. first pitch.


Kalama Hines is SFBay’s Oakland Athletics beat writer. Follow @SFBay and @HineSight_2020 on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of A’s baseball.