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Long ball stings A’s in Padres loss

The A’s almost broke through to another milestone.

Approaching a home-and-home sweep of the Padres, Thursday’s game was decided in a pitcher’s duel where two mistakes were enough to break the A’s four-game win streak, Oakland losing to San Diego 3-1.

This story will be updated with post-game quotes and additional material from the A’s clubhouse.

Oakland starter Kendall Graveman didn’t give much — seven innings, six strikeouts and two earned runs — but it wasn’t enough. Graveman gave up two home runs off sinkers, including one to former A’s catcher Derek Norris to give San Diego their second run of the game.

The first, though, was a doozy.

A 75-mile-per-hour slider-cutter low and outside was sent to the fairway, with outfielder Matt Kemp smashing a figurative hole-in-one to deep left-center. The homer was one that the A’s couldn’t recover from, even with Ian Kennedy on the mound for the Padres.

Graveman has now gone three consecutive starts of seven or more innings pitched, and allowed two runs or fewer in each of them. Though the success has been there, he’s yet to record a win since June 2, against Detroit.

Kennedy (W, 1 ER, 4 H, 5.43 ERA) entered the game with an earned run average sitting just below 6.00, and a hot lineup in front of him.

Photos by Scot Tucker/SFBay

But he put the A’s on ice, striking out four and playing efficient baseball.

The A’s went 0-for-3 with runners in scoring position, with catcher Josh Phegley nabbing the A’s lone run on a solo shot that looped just a few feet from the left field foul pole.

Graveman’s success since coming back to the big club in late May has been uncanny. The A’s thought they were getting a top-flight sinkerball pitcher who could keep the ball in the park like a net draped from foul pole to foul pole.

They didn’t get that right away, Graveman’s ERA spiked to 8.27 in his first four starts with the A’s. But since being recalled on May 23rd, the 24-year-old has recorded a 2.27 ERA over six starts, with a 2-2 record in just under 40 innings.

The time in Nashville was beneficial for Graveman, according to manager Bob Melvin, for some of the simpler reasons:

“I think he was able to relax and get back to what he does well. Sometimes when you’re young and get to the big leagues, and you get off to a rough start, you tend to press and it can speed up for you a little bit. You can kind of lose sight of what your strengths are.”

Graveman agrees, though he added some deeper perspective:

“I think failure is also another thing that was good for me. It was one of those things that, when I failed, I understood that you have to learn how to get better, continue to get better and there’s a growing process. No matter how long you’ve played the game, whether you’ve been in it 10 years, or a rookie like myself, I think there’s always a process of growing.”

He added:

“I think that was one of those learning curves I had to go through and I understood when I went down there that I had to work on a few things, I had to get down there and relax and continue to pitch the way I know I can pitch was a good thing for me.”

The pitchers’ duel may have had some spectators dozing, though there was a change in the eighth inning, and not the kind fans covet.

Outfielders Billy Burns and Josh Reddick, both enjoying terrific seasons, collided en route to a Melvin Upton double that was lined to the warning track.

Burns dizzily scampered to retrieve the ball and get it to third base, while Reddick lay semi-motionless. For over three minutes, Reddick was on the dirt, and play stopped for roughly five minutes.

A’s trainer Nick Paparesta jogged out to Reddick’s aide, accompanied by Melvin, and gave Reddick close examination. When the two jogged back to the dugout, Reddick remained in rightfield, and stayed in the game til the very bitter end.

Melvin gave a brief update:

“He’s ok. … Fought his way through it.”

The A’s continue their homestand Friday, with their top three pitchers starting against the Los Angeles Angels. Oakland took two of three against Los Angeles just last weekend, and hopes to continue their success against the division rival.

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