A’s beat Rays in big seventh inning


After losing 10 straight to American League West teams, the A’s finally capped the total.

Oakland defeated the Rays and starter Jake Odorizzi (ND, 6-6, 3.02 ERA) 8-2 Sunday afternoon.

It looked for a moment like the A’s were going to drop another, though, the seventh inning providing plenty of excitement for the small crowd who came to watch.

Kendall Graveman (ND, 6-9, 4.05 ERA) pitched six shutout innings before exiting with an injury, with Sean Doolittle making his first appearance since May, and only his second appearance of the season.

The A’s led 1-0 to open the inning, but the Rays scored two times on a single and a sacrifice fly. That late in the game, the A’s haven’t come back too many times.

And of all the pitchers to allow two runs that quickly, even with the injury, Doolittle was low on the expected list to do so.

But Oakland rallied for seven runs, including three at the behest of first baseman Mark Canha. The San Jose native tripled with the bases loaded, a play that only crisp and pristine defense could have prevented from becoming an inside the park home run.

The inning might have gone a little longer had catcher Stephen Vogt not been thrown out at home in an excellent play made by Rays catcher Rene Rivera.

Third baseman Danny Valencia did score, though, on the single from Brett Lawrie, who played second base for the day. Billy Butler and Lawrie scored on a single from infielder Eric Sogard, and Valencia singled in Canha in his second at bat of the inning.

It was clicking for the A’s there, the seven runs in one inning tying a team high for the season, Oakland captured the feat against San Diego in June.

Manager Bob Melvin said:

“Those were as good of at bats as we’ve had in a while. Especially in a game where, we have a lead and all of a sudden it’s gone again. And we’ve seen that happen way too often. So to get those kind of at bats together after that, you really have to separate and keep your efforts and focus in one game.”

Melvin also praised Canha, who has had one of the best months of any player in the big leagues:

“He’s been great. Really overall, if you look at his year, it’s been a pretty good year.”

Melvin noted an illness that Canha dealt with earlier in the season, and said that he believes it set the powerful first baseman back a fair amount.

Canha now has five multi-hit games in his last six, and is 20-46 in the last 12 games. He’s red-hot.

One major negative for youthful exuberance is that Graveman exited after a sixth inning battle with Evan Longoria, his oblique muscle grabbed and the team is tentatively calling it an oblique strain.

Graveman will undergo an MRI either Sunday or Monday morning, and will likely miss the rest of the season. Melvin also reaffirmed his decision not to pitch Doolittle in the ninth inning Saturday night, a blown save and a loss dealt by switch pitcher Pat Venditte.

Melvin didn’t want to slot Doolittle into the closer role immediately until he worked off the rust he would inevitably have after spending a lengthy amount of time on the disabled list.

There’s no official timetable for when, or if, Doolittle closes out a game this year, and with roster expansion slated for the first week of September, there’s a possibility that Doolittle doesn’t record a save in 2015.

The A’s won just their 54th game of the year, with 37 remaining, and major bullpen issues. With all that, it’s fair to wonder if Melvin and his superiors will want to see what they have in the minors.

Sean Nolin, who was acquired in a trade involving third baseman Josh Donaldson, seems like a reasonable candidate to receive a close look, as does R.J. Alvarez and Cody Martin.

As for who will replace Graveman in the A’s rotation, Aaron Brooks is a near lock. Brooks has been solid in his appearances in the majors this season, and should be the guy Oakland turns to.

The A’s will hit the road for a week, with six games against the Mariners and Diamondbacks, before returning home to face the Angels.

Follow @SFBay and @LeskiwSFBay on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of the Oakland Athletics.

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