OAKLAND – Things played out remarkably according to script for the A’s on Monday, and that’s something you don’t often say on Opening Night at the Coliseum.
Kendall Graveman was stellar over six innings on the mound, Khris Davis crushed two home runs and the bullpen locked down a 4-2 victory over the Los Angeles Angels before a sellout home crowd.
It was just the A’s second victory in their past 13 openers, and it was a fitting capper on a feel-good night that included a pregame field dedication ceremony to honor Rickey Henderson.
Many of Oakland’s recent Opening Night performances have included sloppy defense, bullpen meltdowns and other untimely events that have spoiled the festivities. Not so in this one.
It was a 2-2 game in the sixth when Davis went deep for the first time off Ricky Nolasco (0-1), a blast that reached the stairs beyond the left field wall. Then he connected again off JC Ramirez in the eighth, a shot to left-center that gave the A’s a little cushion.
After Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson combined on a scoreless eighth, former Giant closer Santiago Casilla got the call in the ninth and nailed down the save.
It figures that the A’s will need to win games often in this fashion — relatively low-scoring, with solid starting pitching and mistake-free work from the bullpen.
They got it on this night, and just like that, the A’s were the owners of a drama-free 1-0 record.
Starting pitching report:
Graveman’s M.O. is getting early contact, inducing grounders and letting his defense work behind him. He did that to a degree, benefiting from two 6-4-3 double plays. But he also had seven strikeouts, pumping his fastball by several hitters and clocking as high as 97 miles per hour on the stadium radar gun. Graveman (1-0) reached 98 at one point during spring training, continuing a trend that saw his velocity rise throughout last season.
It was no surprise that the man who made him pay for his one mistake was Mike Trout. The reigning American League MVP smoked a 2-2 pitch for a two-run homer to left to give the Angels a 2-1 lead in the top of the third. Trout has terrorized the A’s like few have over the years. Monday’s blast was his 22nd homer in 95 career games against Oakland.
Manager Bob Melvin said he would have more than one reliever closing games, going by matchups in the eighth and ninth innings. That played out in the opener, with Doolittle recording the first two outs of the eighth and then Madson being called upon for a righty-on-righty duel with the dangerous Trout. Trout doubled to the opposite field, but after Pujols was intentionally walked, Madson got C.J. Cron on a grounder. Casilla gave up a one-out walk in the ninth but finished things off.
At the plate:
Last season, Davis didn’t notch his first homer until the A’s 16th game. That was part of a miserable start to his first season in Oakland, before he caught fire and never really cooled off the rest of the year. He jumped on the first pitch from Nolasco in the bottom of the sixth and launched it over the wall in left to snap a 2-2 tie. The A’s got their first run on Stephen Vogt’s homer in the second. After Trout’s blast put the Angels up 2-1, Yonder Alonso’s bloop single in the fifth scored Jed Lowrie to knot it up.
He had just the second two-homer night by an Athletic on Opening Day in Oakland hisotry. Jason Giambi did it in 2000.
In the field:
The A’s turned in an errorless performance with a couple nice plays from their new outfielders. Right fielder Matt Joyce made a sliding catch after a long run into foul territory on C.J. Cron’s pop up in the second. Later in the game, Rajai Davis ran down Albert Pujols’ drive to the wall in left-center in the sixth.
A sellout crowd of 36,067 greeted Henderson with a loud ovation as he was introduced and walked through a gate in center field
Sean Manaea (7-9, 3.86 last season) takes the ball Tuesday night, opposed by right-hander Matt Shoemaker (9-13, 3.88). It will be Shoemaker’s first regular-season start since he was struck in the head by a liner last September that required brain surgery. First pitch is 7:05 p.m.