Graveman endures first shaky start of 2017

Right-hander hadn't allowed more than two runs entering Wednesday

Graveman endures first shaky start of 2017

MINNEAPOLIS -- An offensively-challenged A's club witnessed Kendall Graveman's first subpar start of the season at Target Field on Wednesday evening. The outcome, not pretty, was predictable.

Without Graveman in top form, and their bats still largely missing, the A's dropped their third straight game, 7-4, falling to 1-8 over their last nine. The right-hander allowed a season-high six runs and walked four over 3 1/3 innings. His ERA went from 2.25 to 3.95.

"Just one of those days where the ball was running off the plate for him," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "Just had a tough time staying with the movement of his pitches. Every now and then you run into a day like that."

During a stretch in which the A's have continually struggled to score runs -- they were averaging 2.1 per game over their last eight before posting four on this night -- their starters' struggles have been magnified.

Graveman, making his fifth start Wednesday, had done his part by holding opponents to two runs or fewer in his first four starts. The A's most reliable starter picked up wins in the first two starts, but like much of the A's rotation of late, he was subject to little run support in the next two.

"We scored enough runs to win, and I didn't go deep in the ballgame," Graveman said. "It's tough, when you've been on a pretty good roll and you feel like you just didn't command it well."

An ominous first inning saw Graveman walk three of his first four batters, more than he had issued in any of his previous four starts. Twins designated hitter Kennys Vargas made him pay for the walks by delivering a two-run single.

Command escaped Graveman again in third, when his fourth walk preceded Vargas' three-run homer. He finished the inning at 80 pitches, prompting movement in the bullpen. Graveman returned for the fourth, but only for two batters, including Byron Buxton, who hit a lead-off triple. Buxton later scored on Max Kepler's groundout against Liam Hendriks.

"I just didn't command the ball real well," said Graveman, who threw 94 pitches. "That's first and foremost. I didn't put the ball where I wanted to, and it was evident with the walks. Put us in a jam, and that game's solely on me.

"You kind of want to stop the bleeding at some point, and you go out and have an outing like that. It's really tough. Somebody's gotta step up."

Jane Lee has covered the A's for since 2010. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.