Another early offensive onslaught. Another commanding pitching performance. Another win for the Oakland Athletics.
Riding the wave of a five-run second inning, ace Kendall Graveman delivered his eighth win since the All-Star break (8-2), becoming the first Oakland hurler to reach the 10-win threshold this season, with a 5-1 victory over the Cleveland Indians (72-53) on Wednesday afternoon.
In three games against the Indians, Oakland outscored the postseason-hopeful visitors 14-3. While Cleveland tallied lone solo home runs in each contest, the A’s (55-72) posted all of their runs after a 1-0 loss on Monday, claiming the series victory.
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Graveman (W, 10-8, 3.97 ERA), who began the year 1-6, put his team’s season into the perspective of his own:
“It’s not what you do when you’re 1-6, it’s how you respond. … We can all look at that as a team right now, we’re under .500 but what can we do to get better at the end of this year and continue forward.”
Cleveland starter Trevor Bauer was the hard-luck loser, getting little help from his defense early on, but battling through 6-2/3 innings.
Leading off the second inning, Khris Davis sent another drive to deep right. Unable to get it over the wall this time, though, “Khrush” was forced to settle for a triple.
Of his teammate, who suffered a highlight-reel strikeout to end Monday’s loss before going 4-for-8 as an integral part in winning the next two games, Stephen Vogt said there’s a lot to admire:
“His ability to just put the bat on the ball — he’s a smart hitter. And, even when he’s going through a rough patch, you wouldn’t know it. Whether he’s hit five homers in his last five at-bats, or he’s punched out the last five times, he’s the same guy. That’s not easy to do.”
Following a walk by Yonder Alonso, the red-hot Ryon Healy sent a liner into left to open the scoring. The single, which extended the rookie’s hitting streak to a noteworthy 11 games, was the second of five Oakland hits in the frame.
The Indians would certainly like to have the last of those hits back, however.
With two down in the inning, Danny Valencia lifted an innocent-looking pop up between the mound and first base. Although Bauer (L, 9-6, 4.01 ERA) appeared to have a beat on it, first baseman Carlos Santana called off his pitcher before backpedaling and eventually watching the ball land softly on the infield grass just out of the reach of his lunging attempt.
The Cleveland starter threw both hands in the air in disgust as the fourth and fifth A’s runs of the inning crossed the plate.
Manager Bob Melvin said that, while his offense’s production of the past two games is nice, keeping it going is something it has to focus on:
“We move the line, offensively. We have some guys with power. We can score some runs, we just don’t do it consistently enough.”
Oakland would be held off the scoreboard the rest of the way, but the one-inning flurry was enough for Graveman and the bullpen, as they teamed up to hold the Indians to a solitary run — coming on a solo homer (1) from Roberto Perez.
Graveman, who said that 10 wins was a goal he set prior to the season, said that his hot stretch is the product of confidence:
“You have a feeling where you know where the ball is going to go, and being able to execute the majority of the time lately. …Just to have that feeling, on the mechanics side of it, gives you a lot of confidence to go out there.”
As has become a running theme in his starts, the Alabama native was the recipient of a stellar defensive effort, led by the always-impressive glove-work of Alonso, including a nifty play to start a double-play in the ninth. Of the 20 outs recorded in his 6-2/3 innings, the right-handed sinker-baller finished with just two strikeouts but coaxed nine ground-ball outs and a double-play.
“The way I like to think of it as a player, and I think we all should think about it, is when BoMel puts our name in the lineup, he know what he’s getting out of us each day. That’s what I’m trying to work towards, and not have the kind of ups and downs — consistently get the ball on the ground and continue to go deeper in ball games.”
Alonso also contributed one hit in two at-bats, along with two walks and a run scored. Jake Smolinski and Davis each chipped in on the offensive side with 2-hit performances, while Healy, Max Muncy and Chad Pinder took credit for the RBIs.
The A’s will now head back to the Midwest, after enjoying just three games at home. The green and gold will finish August with three-game sets against the St. Louis Cardinals and Houston Astros looking to ride the hot hand they have been dealt by Sean Manaea (5-8, 4.53 ERA) and Graveman.