Behind another solid start from Kendall Graveman, rock-solid defense, and a few timely hits, the Oakland Athletics found their way back into the win column, beating the Baltimore Orioles 3-2 Monday night.
Baltimore starter Kevin Gausman (L, 3-9, 4.02 ERA), who is 0-7 with a 5.62 ERA in road games this season and hasn’t won on the road since April 7, 2015, took the loss allowing two runs in six innings.
Graveman (W, 8-7, 4.29 ERA) continued his recent run of success, collecting his fifth win since July 1. Lasting seven innings, the 25-year-old sinker baller held the American League East leading Orioles (63-48) to just six hits and one run, while striking out four — since starting the season 1-6, Graveman has come on strong as of Mid-May. Ryan Madson (4-4, 3.66 ERA) picked up save No. 23, with a perfect ninth.
Manager Bob Melvin said that Graveman — the sole active member of the Opening Day rotation and team leader in innings pitched — has rounded into an ace:
“Kendall, from where he started this season to where he is right now, is basically anchoring the rotation. … It’s good to see, it puts a little more pressure on you — you have to step up and be that guy and he’s done it.”
The A’s (49-63) put their best defense on display behind their new ace, who induced 14 ground-ball outs, making for a multitude of magnificent plays.
Coco Crisp robbed Mark Trumbo of a double leading off the second, when he raced back to the track and leapt high reeling in the liner above his head as he crashed into the wall near the 400-foot marker. Ryon Healy was able to elude the business end of a broken bat, as it hurdled toward his third-base position while bending to make a bare-handed pickup and firing to first to get Jonathan Schoop by a step.
As he has done so often in his first season as an Athletic, Yonder Alonso seemed to make a spectacular play every inning. Before his diving snag to rob Pedro Alvarez of a hit in the fourth, though, his incredible range gave way to the Orioles first run of the night.
With the bases loaded, one out, and the MVP candidate Manny Machado at the dish, Graveman coaxed a flared foul ball that would have been out of play in most ballparks. Flashing his range, the Oakland first baseman ran down the pop-up off the bat of his brother-in-law using a lunging one-handed stab at the last minute to flag it down near the visitor’s bullpen mound.
Photos by Scot Tucker/SFBay
Being 200 feet from home, with all his momentum carrying him away from the plate, Alonso was unable to make an efficient throw allowing J.J. Hardy to scamper home with the game’s first run and a third-inning lead.
Both skipper and starter offered glowing comments regarding the play of their first baseman.
“In my eyes he’s the best first baseman in the game right now, defensively, and the best first baseman that’s ever played behind me. You see some of the diving plays that he makes. You see that he almost runs down a fly ball in the bullpen. … We tell the guys, ‘if you make a bad throw, make it low because Yonder’s going to pick you up.'”
Melvin spoke not just of Alonso, but of Healy as well:
“Yonder is one of the premier first baseman, defensively, in the league. The play Healy made, with the bat going at him, I don’t know that you can make a better play than that — it was going right at him.”
All-Star catcher Stephen Vogt, who got the run back in the fourth with a game-tying solo home run (9), said that while he knows little about SABR Metrics, he knows Alonso’s name belongs at the top of all defensive categories for the position:
“He’s some kind of good over there at first base, I’ve never seen anybody better. Maybe there’s some as good, but there’s nobody better.”
The A’s took their first lead since a 10-inning win in Anaheim on Thursday, after seeming poised to waste a lead-off walk to Vogt. With two down, after the slumping Danny Valencia flew out on a 3-0 pitch, Alonso got his own 3-0 green light and singled. Billy Butler followed with a single, chasing home the Oakland backstop.
Vogt, who finished going 2-for-3 with two runs, collected his second RBI — which proved to be the winning run — lacing a two-out single into right, sending home Healy who led off the seventh with a walk. He said that his production today brought the feeling he had been searching for:
“Today was big for me. It’s been a couple weeks since I felt like I’ve really driven a ball, or felt comfortable at the plate. … I’ve been a little passive the last couple weeks, so after my first at-bat (a pop-out) I said, ‘I don’t care what happens I’m swinging hard.'”
Like Vogt for the A’s, Machado accounted for all of his team’s offense. The third baseman finished 1-for-3 with two RBIs, including a home run (26) — his fourth in the past two days.
Rookie Zach Neal (1-1, 5.25 ERA) will look to provide further relief for his squad, when he gets his second career starting nod on Tuesday — allowing seven runs over four innings in his first attempt on May 25. He will be facing newly acquired Baltimore starter Wade Miley (7-9, 5.08 ERA), making his second start with the O’s.