Kendall Graveman can picture the last out.
On the mound for the A’s, Graveman induced a groundball from then-White Sox leadoff hitter Adam Eaton. First baseman Yonder Alonso scooped up the grounder and tossed it to Graveman. He touched first base and sealed the accomplishment: a complete game shutout in under 100 pitches. A Maddux.
“It was one of the more fond memories of my baseball career,” Graveman reminisced in his White Sox introductory press conference in November.
The South Siders signed Graveman this offseason as a reliever, but back in 2016, the right-hander recorded the best start of his career against the White Sox. And Graveman’s Maddux wasn’t his only fond memory at the White Sox’ home ballpark. Graveman has only played two regular season games and one playoff game at Guaranteed Rate Field/U.S. Cellular Field, but he’s never given up a run on that mound.
Graveman’s first taste of the playoffs, in fact, came against the White Sox last year in the American League Division Series. His best game of the series was his only in Chicago: a hitless eighth inning as the Astros routed the White Sox in Game 4.
Graveman has found success against the White Sox regardless of location, posting a 1.34 ERA against the South Siders in seven games, regular season and playoffs combined. So, his dominant streak at Guaranteed Rate Field likely has more to do with the matchup than the atmosphere. But because of that mid-August game in 2016, the ballpark holds significance.
As Graveman said at the time, and recounted this winter, Graveman got in touch with Greg Maddux three days before he faced the White Sox. Graveman, 25 at the time and in his second season starting for the A’s, wanted to pick the Hall of Famer’s brain about the mental side of the game.
When Graveman soon after achieved the feat named after Maddux, it was the stuff of fairytales.
“That was special,” Graveman said. “… When you start a game your goal is to throw a complete game. And being in the bullpen (now) I understand how valuable that is for a starter to go nine innings.”
Graveman said he saw his change in role as the only “viable option” to extend his career after being diagnosed with a benign bone tumor in his cervical spine. He also underwent Tommy John surgery in 2018.
In just two seasons as a reliever, Graveman claimed the closer role in Seattle and went to the World Series with the Astros as a setup man. So, another Maddux at Guaranteed Rate field is unlikely for Graveman. But the White Sox do picture him in an important role.
“He gives a little bit of a different look, in terms of repertoire, from what our other relief arms bring,” White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said after Graveman’s signing. “He obviously has experience in a variety of relief roles and has had success in them. Additionally, we feel there's still some upside there. He's still growing in the role, there's still a way to make a few refinements along the way and perhaps get even more success out of a guy who pitched extremely well in a pennant race last year and in the postseason.”
If all goes to the White Sox’ plan, Graveman will be adding plenty more fond memories at Guaranteed Rate Field to the list.