Athletics

Vogt: Graveman 'is the ace of our staff right now'

Vogt: Graveman 'is the ace of our staff right now'

ARLINGTON, Texas — The ‘wow’ factor is gone for Kendall Graveman’s teammates when he pitches like he did Saturday night, and that’s the biggest compliment he can be paid.

No longer is Graveman showing the potential of what he might someday be able to do. To everyone in the A’s clubhouse, he has arrived as a leader of Oakland’s starting rotation.

“He’s the ace of our staff right now,” catcher Stephen Vogt said after a 6-1 victory over the Texas Rangers. “He beat a pretty tough pitcher today. (Yu) Darvish was outstanding in his own way, but Kendall out-pitched him. He’s a guy we know can do that for us every time out. He’s pitching with so much confidence on the mound and so much presence on the mound.”

Graveman held the Rangers to two hits and a run over seven innings. He didn’t allow a hit through 6 2/3 innings, striking out five but primarily taking care of business how he normally does, generating ground balls and putting his infielders through a workout.

He recorded 12 of his 21 outs on grounders, painting both sides of the plate with his sinker and mixing in his breaking pitches to keep hitters honest. The Rangers, who entered the day tied for the Americna League lead with eight homers (along with the A’s and Astros), gave credit where it was due. Texas catcher Jonathan Lucroy raved about Graveman’s sinker.

“He was throwing it to lefties and it’s coming at them and it’s coming back (over the plate),” Lucroy said. “There’s not many guys who can do that. When a guy can control that pitch it’s pretty good. To righties he was throwing stuff that started middle-away and it’s running in on your hands.

“He’s throwing the ball outside the white line and it’s running back over the outside corner. It’s ‘ball’ to ‘strike’ and it’s tough.”

Graveman was aware of the no-hit bid he had going. So were his teammates. But if they were leaving him alone in the dugout, that’s only an extension of how they typically treat the right-hander on his start days.

“They don’t usually bother me from pitch one,” Graveman said. “I usually kind of stay by myself on the end of the dugout in my own little world.”

As the hitless innings went by, manager Bob Melvin saw a decision looming. In the season’s first week, he normally wouldn’t over-extend a starter’s pitch count. But when a guy is working on a no-no, there are lots of factors to weigh.

“It was nerve-wracking for us, especially this time of year,” Melvin said. “You keep looking at the pitch count and hoping you don’t get into an uncomfortable situation. He was pretty impressive. And in this ballpark, you gotta work. You gotta work hard, especially when the wind’s blowing like that.”

Graveman credited the left side of his infield — Ryon Healy and Marcus Semien — for their solid glove work all night. He also benefited from a beautiful leaping grab by Rajai Davis in center. But Graveman works fast, he throws strikes and he pitches to contact. His teammates love that.

Said Melvin: “When that sinker is going, you could tell guys what’s coming and it’s tough to keep them off the ground.”

With Sonny Gray sidelined for what’s expected to be most of April, at least, with a lat injury, shutdown work from Graveman is even more valuable. He’s allowed just three earned runs in 13 innings so far, winning on Opening Night and then beating the Rangers in their dangerous ballpark.

“I think the league knows how good he is,” A’s first baseman Yonder Alonso said. “He had command from the beginning of the game, he was down in the zone, the ball was moving a ton. It’s so much fun to play behind him because he works fast, attacks the zone. It’s just fun to watch.”

**

Alonso chipped in with a two-run homer to center off lefty Dario Alvarez. Of Alonso’s 40 career homers, Saturday’s was just his seventh off a southpaw. It also came on his 30th birthday. Alonso is a .421 hitter (8-for-19) on his birthday.

**

Third baseman Trevor Plouffe was a late scratch due to illness but Melvin expects him to play in Sunday afternoon’s series finale.

**

Triple-A Nashville third baseman Matt Chapman, one of the A’s marquee prospects, was diagnosed with a sprained left wrist after leaving Friday’s game following a check-swing. He’s set to be re-evaluated after the Sounds return from their current road trip after Monday night’s game. In 2015, Chapman missed a chunk of time toward the end of the season with an injury to the same wrist.

Former A's outfielder Josh Reddick clarifies 'meaningful' comments

Former A's outfielder Josh Reddick clarifies 'meaningful' comments

Former A's outfielder Josh Reddick hasn't exactly warmed himself to his old fans this weekend.

On Friday, the Houston Astros outfielder tweeted his displeasure with the umpires overturning a close play at the plate, allowing the A's to tie (and eventually) win the game to move one game back in the AL West. What he said Friday, however, raised even more eyebrows.

Reddick was asked by a reporter afterwards what it was like being part of such an intense, back-and-forth game, and gave a response that Oakland fans were none too pleased with.

"It was fun," Reddick said Friday. "Playing some meaningful baseball in this ballpark doesn't come around a whole lot. As a guy who's been in it before in the past, it's a lot of fun when the fans do come out here. They really make a lot of noise and make it loud here, so it's a lot of fun to be a part of."

He clarified Saturday that his Astros had not played many meaningful baseball games at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, according to the San Francisco Chronicle's Susan Slusser, but the damage was done. The replies to the above tweet were a preview of what was to come, and Reddick drew boos from the crowd.

Reddick once again took to Twitter Saturday evening, hours after the A's moved into a tie for first place with the Astros in the AL West, and said his comments Friday were "taken out of context." 

"I never meant that 'meaningful' games were never played at Rickey Henderson Field," Reddick wrote. "I played for [five] years in a great organization where I played in a lot of memorable baseball games. [Three] of those years were playoff teams and VERY meaningful games ... I would NEVER bash Oakland or the fan base regardless of who I play for. That being said, I'm happy for all those guys in that clubhouse. It's good to see them winning and playing so well."

Reddick played 596 games in parts of five seasons in Oakland, by far his longest tenure with any big-league team. Since leaving Oakland in a 2016 trade to the Los Angeles Dodgers, Reddick is batting .326 with five doubles, two homers, and 14 RBI in 114 plate appearances against his old club. He won his first World Series last season with Houston. 

A's notes: Josh Phegley shines in rare start

A's notes: Josh Phegley shines in rare start

OAKLAND — Josh Phegley made just his 17th start of the season Saturday. Maybe he should play a little more. The A's improved to 15-2 in Phegley's starts this year.

The 30-year-old went 2-for-4 with a pair of doubles and a team-high three RBI. He also caught Trevor Cahill's seven-inning, one-hit gem. Jonathan Lucroy will obviously still be the A's everyday catcher, as he should be, but it's good to know that he can get a day off every once in awhile, and Phegley won't miss a beat.

--- Phegley, Khris Davis, Matt Olson, and Stephen Piscotty all recorded two doubles. The A's eight doubles tied the Oakland single-game record, last accomplished in 2013.

--- Matt Chapman was the only A's starter who failed to reach base. That snapped his career-high 30-game on base streak, as well as his career-high 14-game hitting streak. Chapman is still slashing .276/.362/.500 for the season.

--- Oakland improved to 40-13 in its last 53 games, the best record in MLB during that stretch. The A's also clinched another series victory, improving to 15-1-2 in their last 18 series.

--- The A's 74-49 record in their best after 123 games since 1992. It is tied for the fourth best record through 123 games in Oakland history.

--- Oakland remains the only team in MLB that is undefeated when leading after seven innings, improving to 51-0. The A's are 60-0 when leading after eight.

--- The A's have won 19 of their last 23 games at home and are 37-24 at the Coliseum for the season.

--- During the game, the A's announced that they sent 23-year-old RHP Nolan Blackwood to the Tigers as one of the two prospects in the Mike Fiers trade. Blackwood was 6-3 with a 4.08 ERA and nine saves at Double-A Midland this season. He was ranked as the A's 30th best prospect by MLB.com.