A's righty, now 7-1 in his past 13 starts, finds way to stifle potent O's
By Mark Chiarelli
OAKLAND -- The last time the Orioles saw Kendall Graveman, they pounded him for four homers and six runs in a May 8 A's loss, chasing him after 2 2/3 innings. Graveman said he left far too many fastballs without much movement over the plate. They made it hurt.
Exactly three months later, Graveman made the most of a second crack at one of baseball's best lineups Monday night at the Coliseum, holding the Orioles to one run over seven innings in a 3-2 A's win.
"He was outstanding against arguably one of the toughest lineups," Oakland catcher Stephen Vogt said.
Graveman had been 0-2 with a 10.13 ERA in five career appearances against the O's. He mixed all four pitches effectively, utilizing his sinker and a cutter that A's manager Bob Melvin said was his best of the year to set up his breaking ball.
The result? Fourteen ground-ball outs, his career-high eighth win and the fourth time in six starts he finished at least seven innings.
"I thought early we stuck with the fastball and got some early outs," Graveman said. "Second and third time through we started mixing in some of the breaking balls I haven't thrown in four, five weeks and it got some hitters off."
The A's needed it, too. Their starters were 0-7 with a 9.07 ERA over their previous nine games, unable to pitch five innings five times during that stretch. Graveman, once a back-end-of-the-rotation starter, has watched Oakland's rotation wither around him. The four starters with whom he began the season -- Sonny Gray, Rich Hill, Felix Doubront and Chris Bassitt -- are either injured or have been traded.
Graveman's been the one constant every fifth day. After a rocky start in which he went 1-6 with a 5.38 ERA and nine starts, Graveman's responded, going 7-1 with a 3.67 ERA over his past 13 outings. And that includes a loss to the Angels on Wednesday when he gave up six runs in four innings.
"I had a rough one last time," Graveman said. "Last year, or previously this year, it would've taken me four or five weeks to get out of it. We went straight back to work and got on the same page here. I think that's been the biggest difference, just being able to turn the leaf when things aren't going well."
He did so Monday, silencing a Baltimore lineup with the most homers (168) in the Majors. He allowed one run, a sacrifice fly to Manny Machado in the third, and gave up just two singles over his last four innings.
Neither runner advanced past first.
He was quick to credit his defense. Coco Crisp made a leaping catch at the wall in the second; Ryon Healy avoided a broken bat in the fifth to make a barehanded play on a Jonathan Schoop grounder; Yonder Alonso was ever-so-steady at first base. But Graveman worked with a purpose and rarely fell out of rhythm, delivering another solid start.
Graveman's anchored Oakland's rotation this year -- which is both a promising development and jarring symbolism of a season marred by injuries. He's come a long way since he floundered three months ago at Camden Yards. He's needed to.
"In a year that's been plagued by injury in the starting pitching department, he's been our steady," Vogt said. "He's pitched like a pro, he's taking the ball and he's learning a lot about himself."
Mark Chiarelli is a reporter for MLB.com based in the Bay Area. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.