Kendall Graveman typically is the symbol of stability and steadiness when he takes the mound for the A’s.
Yet even Graveman isn’t immune to this current funk Oakland finds itself in. The A’s Opening Night starter couldn't make it out of the fourth inning in Wednesday’s 7-4 loss to the Minnesota Twins. He walked four and gave up six runs over 3 1/3 innings, his shortest start since May 8 of last season when he lasted just 2 2/3 innings at Baltimore.
The A’s lost for the eighth time in the past nine games, though they made it interesting by loading the bases with no outs in the ninth. They squeezed just one run out of it, however, with former Twin Trevor Plouffe grounding into a game-ending double play against Brandon Kintzler.
The A’s are 7 1/2 games out of first place and enter the finale of this nine-game road trip looking for any way to hit the brakes on this early-season skid.
A lack of offense has been the main culprit lately, but over the last two nights, Oakland has sent Sonny Gray and Graveman to the mound, only to see its top two starters get roughed up for a combined 10 runs in 9 1/3 innings.
Starting pitching report
Graveman (2-2) was sharp last Thursday against the Angels in his first start back from a shoulder injury. But his command betrayed him right out of the gate Wednesday. He walked three of his first four hitters to load the bases in the first, then Kennys Vargas singled up the middle to score two runs. It was Vargas who again did damage in the third. After Miguel Sano singled and Joe Mauer walked, Vargas unloaded on a sinker out over the plate and hit a three-run homer to center field to put the A’s in a 5-1 hole. Graveman hadn’t allowed as many as four walks since last July 4, when issued four against the Twins in a start that also took place at Target Field.
Liam Hendriks threw 1 2/3 innings of scoreless relief after replacing Graveman. Then Bobby Wahl, a hard-throwing reliever called up earlier in the day, made his major league debut to start the sixth. Wahl gave up Eduardo Escobar’s double and Eddie Rosario’s run scoring single. After retiring Byron Buxton, Wahl hit Brian Dozier with a pitch and was removed by manager Bob Melvin.
At the plate
Getting any sort of sustained rally going remains a tough task for the A’s, who entered the night with the second fewest runs in the American League, the second lowest on-base percentage (.295) and the third lowest batting average (.227). Trailing 2-0, they got a run back in the third. Matt Joyce hit a leadoff double and moved to third on Rajai Davis’ single. But that scoring chance got minimized when Trevor Plouffe grounded into a double play that scored Joyce. Graveman couldn’t respond with a shutdown inning, however, as Vargas’ three-run homer made it 5-1. In the top of the fourth, Yonder Alonso crushed a two-run homer to right to pull the A’s within 5-3, but that’s as close as they would get.
Through the offensive doldrums, Alonso has been a bright spot. He’s homered in each of the past two games, giving him six for the season and just one shy of his career high.
In the field
Graveman hurt himself in the first with a throwing error on a pickoff move. Buxton made an excellent diving catch in center to rob Khris Davis in the fourth.
The A’s wobble to the finish line of this nine-game road trip with Thursday’s 10:10 a.m. series finale. Jharel Cotton (2-3, 5.00) matches up against Kyle Gibson (0-3, 8.06).