Right-hander snuffs out potential big innings to seal first victory since April 20
By Mark Chiarelli
OAKLAND -- Kendall Graveman entered Monday on a five-game losing streak with an ERA of 7.36 over that stretch, but a quality start in Oakland's 3-2 win over the Twins has the right-hander and the A's believing he's headed in the right direction.
"It was huge," A's catcher Stephen Vogt said of Graveman's performance. "It was huge we got the win for him. We made some good plays behind him, and he pitched out of trouble. The amount of movement he had in the zone today and the conviction he threw with, that was the story."
The sinker-baller pitched into the sixth inning for only the second time this month, allowing two runs over six innings while striking out five, marking the third consecutive start he's allowed two earned runs or fewer. Graveman has struggled to get out of stressful innings this year, especially as he's pitched deeper into games, but he stranded five Twins, including in important moments in the second and fifth innings.
"I felt good," Graveman said. "I felt from the first pitch on I had the same intensity. I attacked guys today."
"For him to have the confidence to be like 'No, I'm getting out of this,' was huge," Vogt said. "I could see a difference in his demeanor out there today."
Graveman left runners on the corners in the second, getting Danny Santana to strike out swinging. In the fifth, he got Miguel Sano to pop out, stranding runners on first and second. In both innings, Graveman had already given up a run.
The 25-year-old was the beneficiary of strong defense behind him -- Khris Davis made a sliding catch in foul territory in the second and Chris Coghlan held on to Brian Dozier's long sac fly in the fifth despite colliding with Coco Crisp -- but also induced weak contact at times, forcing four groundouts and two double plays. He threw only 85 pitches and left with a lead, something Bob Melvin felt was important.
"That's part of the reason why I went to the bullpen with his pitch count the way it was," Melvin said. "He minimized the damage and made some pitches when he had to today."
Vogt said at times this season Graveman's struggled to keep his sinker in the zone, but he did a better job of keeping his weight centered and creating north to south movement with the pitch. Graveman agreed, saying he maintained control of his two-seamer.
Graveman said that, ultimately, he's taking it upon himself to be more consistent, especially while the team is trying to stay afloat amid a rash of injuries to its pitchers. He said Monday was a "mental boost."
"Our starting pitching right now has taken a little bit of a blow. It's time for guys like myself to step up and get some wins and go deep in ballgames," Graveman said. "I think I put a little bit on myself to say 'Hey, right now, the next three to four weeks are huge for our ball club.' To go deep into games and get wins is something we really need to do right now."
Mark Chiarelli is a reporter for MLB.com based in Oakland. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.