Homer-happy A’s swing Opening Day win
It was a day-long party at the Oakland Coliseum, and the Athletics brought the fireworks.
Behind Kendall Graveman, getting the first Opening Day nod of his career, and after a celebration honoring Oakland legends Rickey Henderson and Bill King, the A’s (1-0) uncorked three impressive home runs leading to a 4-2 victory over the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (0-1).
Taking the loss was starter Ricky Nolasco (o-1, 4.76 ERA), who allowed seven hits and three runs in 5-2/3 while striking out four.
Manager Bob Melvin had no shortage of compliments to hand out after the game, pointing to pitching, defense and offense:
“We got little bits of everything. … We did a lot of good things, didn’t make any mistakes, and that’s what it takes to win close games like that.”
The first A’s hit of the new season also yielded the home team’s first run and RBI.
Leaning into a 2-2 fastball, Stephen Vogt drove a liner into right-center. Retreating toward the out-of-town scoreboard, right fielder Kole Calhoun slowed up with hopes of playing a carom. But 362 feet weren’t quite enough to keep the ball in play at the newly named “Rickey Henderson Field.”
Reigning AL MVP Mike Trout answered right back with a homer (1) of his own, No. 13 for him at the Coliseum — matching his total hit at Seattle’s SafeCo Field for the most at any away park. It came on a mistake pitch — a 2-2 cutter that didn’t cut, staying over the plate at the knees. But that wasn’t the only pain-inducing pitch that left Graveman’s hand in the inning.
Batting in front of the two-time MVP, with two already down in the frame, Angels right fielder Calhoun waged an eight-pitch battle with the Oakland starter before claiming victory on a sinker that missed just off the inside.
The righty said that his execution on the cutter to Trout is something that must be avoided, but added that the real mistake of the inning was walking Calhoun after getting ahead 1-2:
“Where that (Trout) situation comes up is, I walked the guy before. Eliminate that walk, make Calhoun put the ball in play, and you might not get in that situation. Go ahead and attack right there … a walk going into the middle of that order is not good.”
Aside from the walk, and one hanger, Graveman (1-0, 3.00 ERA) was tough on the LA rivals, holding them six hits and those two runs in 6 strong innings. He struck out seven and walked two.
Vogt took another crack at the right-field wall in the fourth but Calhoun had just enough room to flag this on down, putting it away with his glove high above his head and while leaning against the green-padded wall.
Graveman and the Oakland offense were forced to wait for the game-tying tally, but not long. Jed Lowrie, who led off the fifth with his second of two singles, was moved to second on a lazy chopper to Nolasco’s left by Trevor Plouffe. Employing all of his speed from there, the A’s second baseman made an excellent read on a Yonder Alonso flared single to center motoring home unchallenged.
With his first mighty blast of the season Khris Davis gave a lead to Graveman, who had just finished his final frame of the night.
Once again, it was a hanging mistake on a night that featured four. Davis, like Vogt and Trout before him, made a deposit into the big fly bank. This one though, unlike the liners before it, soared majestically well into the second set of stairs beyond the left field wall.
Also unlike Vogt, when “Khrush” took a second swipe at it he did not come up short, sending a solo homer to the front row of seats in left-center, over the newly unveiled Rickey Henderson Field insignia near the 388-foot marker.
Melvin joked that Davis hadn’t hit a home run in batting practice this spring, much less in a game:
“It’s pretty great, just to know (the power) is there, there’s a little bit of hope even if I’m not swinging it well in BP. But, I’d rather swing it well in the game than BP.”
Vogt, who was even more awe-stricken considering Davis’ pair of well-struck smashes yielded a wall-scraping homer and a warning-track fly-out, told SFBay:
“He’s got some kind of juice. I don’t have that kind of pop, he’s special — there’s no weather or stadium that can keep him from hitting homers.”
From there it was a display of Oakland bullpen power with Ryan Dull, Sean Doolittle, Ryan Madson and Santiago Casilla, who got the save (1), teaming up for three scoreless innings of relief with four strikeouts.
Leading the way for the Angels in a losing effort was Trout who finished adding a double to his homer, getting off to another quick start in hopes of defending his MVP.
Sean Manaea will get the ball in game two of the series and season Tuesday. In two starts, Manaea has allowed six runs (five earned) in 12-2/3 innings pitched (3.55 ERA) for an 0-1 record. He is matched up with Matt Shoemaker, with first pitch scheduled for 7:05 p.m.
With his two home runs, Khris Davis matched Jason Giambi (2000) as the only Athletics to post multi-jack games on Opening Day in Oakland history. … This marks the A’s second Opening Day win since 2005. … . Casilla joins Arthur Rhondes (2004) as the only A’s to record a save on Opening Day in 24 years.