Athletics

Instant Replay: Graveman shines, pitches A's to win over Rangers

Instant Replay: Graveman shines, pitches A's to win over Rangers

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ARLINGTON, Texas – Kendall Graveman flirted with a no-hitter Saturday, and given the way in which he dissected the Texas Rangers’ lineup, figure it won’t be the last time.

With the wind whipping wildly for most of the night at Globe Life Park, the A’s right-hander kept the Rangers grounded, literally. He recorded 12 ground-ball outs and glided through seven innings in Oakland’s **-*** victory that evened this three-game series at one apiece.

The Rangers had a zero in the hit column and Graveman was at just 73 pitches as he took the mound for the seventh. He struck out Shin-Soo Choo and Nomar Mazara before cleanup man Mike Napoli jumped on a first-pitch fastball and homered over the wall in left-center. Rougned Odor singled and Jonathan Lucroy lined out sharply to short to end the inning, and manager Bob Melvin went to his bullpen to stash away the A’s first road victory of 2017.

Graveman allowed two hits with one walk and five strikeouts over 85 pitches, winning for the second time in as many starts this season.

Rangers starter Yu Darvish (0-1) was game for a pitchers’ duel much of the night. He held the A’s off the board until the sixth, but Oakland scored a run that inning and another in the seventh, then robbed the night of its suspense with three more in the eighth for a 5-1 lead.

Starting pitching report

Graveman combined mid-90’s velocity with good movement and location, and that makes the righty a tough pitcher to beat. He faced just one batter over the minimum through the first six innings, with his only base runners up to that point coming on Odor’s walk and a throwing error from Graveman on Lucroy’s comebacker right after that. But Graveman promptly made amends by starting a 1-6-3 comebacker double play off the bat of Joey Gallo.

Bullpen report

Santiago Casilla handled the eighth and Ryan Madson, who hadn’t pitched since Tuesday, finished it off in the ninth.

At the plate

As Graveman was silencing the Rangers, the A’s weren’t solving Darvish with ease either. It was a scoreless game until the sixth. Matt Joyce opened the inning with a walk and moved around to third on Ryon Healy’s double down the left-field line. After a Khris Davis grounder to first, Stephen Vogt managed to get Joyce home with a dribbler to second. The A’s got some help in making it 2-0 in the seventh when Yonder Alonso singled and moved around to third on Napoli’s throwing error that sailed into left field. Rajai Davis’ sacrifice fly brought Alonso home.

Leading 2-1 in the eighth, they added three more runs with help from the Rangers’ outfielders. Carlos Gomez never seemed to have a good read on Khris Davis’ drive to the center field wall that went for a double. Then Jed Lowrie was credited for a double on a fly ball that Mazara misjudged in odd fashion in right, allowing Davis to score. Alonso then added some cushion with a two-run homer to straightaway center off Dario Alvarez — just his seventh career homer against a lefty — putting the A’s up 5-1.

In the field

Rajai Davis, who was 2-for-21 entering the game, had a nice night with two doubles and a sacrifice fly. He added an outstanding catch in the eighth, leaping to snare Ryan Rua’s deep drive to center.

Attendance

A crowd of 44,410 was on hand.

Up next

This series wraps up with a 12:05 p.m. game Sunday, as Sean Manaea (0-0, 6.00) matches up against lefty Martin Perez (0-1, 4.50).

Adding insult to injury: A's must regroup after rough start to season

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Adding insult to injury: A's must regroup after rough start to season

It's hard to imagine a worse start to the season for the Oakland A's.

Sure it's only two games, but the A's return home from Japan with a pair of losses on the field and two more off of it.

On Wednesday we learned that talented left-hander Jesús Luzardo will be shut down for four to six weeks with a strained rotator cuff. That's a significant blow to an already thin starting rotation.

Then in Thursday's game, first baseman Matt Olson left with right-hand discomfort after fouling off a pitch in the fifth inning. According to the San Francisco Chronicle's Susan Slusser, Olson had trouble gripping a bat after the foul ball.

Of course, it's much too early to panic. Even if Olson has to miss some time, the A's have the infield depth to get by without him. Mark Canha, Chad Pinder, and Jurickson Profar can all play first base and Franklin Barreto can play second.

The real concern lies in the starting pitching. Luzardo wasn't a sure thing to make the rotation out of spring camp, but he certainly figured to be a factor at some point in the near future. Without him, the A's might need help.

Mike Fiers and Marco Estrada, the team's top two starters, both struggled in their season debuts. Fiers only lasted three innings, allowing five earned runs. Estrada got through five innings, giving up three earned runs and two home runs.

The A's are counting on Fiers and Estrada to pitch much better than they did in Japan. Whether they can anchor the rotation throughout the season remains to be seen.

Veteran left-hander Brett Anderson is penciled in as the number three starter, though he struggled much of last year, both with performance and injuries. Frankie Montas will start the year as the number four starter, with Aaron Brooks and Chris Bassitt battling for the number five job.

Starting pitching is clearly the weak point of an otherwise excellent roster. Oakland's hitting, defense, and bullpen are all good enough to reach the postseason and perhaps even the World Series.

[RELATED: A's running out of options following Luzardo injury]

The big question will be whether the A's starters can deliver five solid innings to give the offense and bullpen a chance. Fiers couldn't in his debut. Estrada did a bit better, but it still wasn't enough.

The A's now have a chance to regroup and reset before their home opener March 28 against the Angels. From there, they'll have 160 games to try to repeat last year's magic.
 

Jesús Luzardo's injury a major blow for A's, as team scrambles for options

Jesús Luzardo's injury a major blow for A's, as team scrambles for options

Oakland's already shaky starting rotation took a major blow Wednesday night when it was revealed that 21-year-old left-hander Jesús Luzardo would be shut down for four to six weeks with a rotator cuff strain.

While Luzardo has not yet thrown a major league pitch, the A's top prospect appeared poised to make the starting rotation following a phenomenal spring training. His big league debut will now have to wait and Oakland will have to scramble to shore up its rotation.

In the short term, the competition for the A's number five starter job is likely down to right-handers Chris Bassitt and Aaron Brooks. Bassitt still has a minor league option remaining while Brooks does not, giving the latter a slight edge.

In the bigger picture, the A's will likely have to add another starting pitcher to the mix. Veteran right-hander Edwin Jackson remains available on the free agent market and the team has been in contact with him throughout the offseason. The 35-year-old put together a strong 2018 season in Oakland and was a critical presence in the clubhouse.

As it currently stands, the A's starting rotation features Mike Fiers, Marco Estrada, Brett Anderson, Frankie Montas, and either Brooks or Bassitt. Right-hander Jharel Cotton and southpaws Sean Manaea and A.J. Puk are still recovering from injuries but should be back in the mix sometime this season.

[RELATED: Matt Olson exits game with hand discomfort]

Unfortunately, the A's can't afford to sit around and wait for their potential returns. Signing Jackson has gone from a luxury to a necessity. His return would at least give Oakland four veteran starters to hold down the fort until reinforcements arrive. 

Oakland still features one of the best bullpens in all of baseball, which means they don't need their starters to go more than five innings. They just need pitchers who can keep them in the game early on. Jackson has certainly proven more than capable of that.