What a game! Kendall Graveman and the A's offense came through big in today's 10-1 win over the Kansas City Royals. While that 10 is a very impressive number, the real story lies on the other side of the score.
Let's just get it out of the way and post Graveman's impressive line for today:
7.0 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 6 SO (and an error)
As if in response to Billy Beane's concerns about the rotation, Graveman came out today dealing and kept it going deeper into the game than any A's pitcher has gone in Spring Training.
Graveman's only walk of the game came with 2 outs in the first inning, when he gave a free pass to Alex Gordon. With Kendrys Morales batting next, Josh Phegley made a perfect throw to Jed Lowrie (playing shortstop again today) to catch Gordon stealing for the final out.
The Royals threatened in the 2nd inning. Morales returned to the plate and hit a ground ball up the middle for a single, and following a fantastic 3-pitch strikeout against Salvador Perez, should-have-been-All-Star Omar Infante roped a soft line drive to right center for a hit. Fuentes flew out to right field, but Morales, who is not known for his speed, was able to advance to 3rd on a poor throw by Josh Reddick. Graveman recovered nicely and was able to induce a groundout against Paulo Orlando to end the threat.
After this, Graveman basically went on cruise control for the next several innings. The 3rd was a 3-up, 3-down inning for him and the 4th would have been if not for an error by Chris Coghlan. Graveman's error also came in the 4th. While trying to hold professional base stealer Terrance Gore at first, Graveman threw wide of the bag, just beyond Alonso's reach.
Graveman notched two strikeouts in the 4th and another two in the 5th, while the 6th inning featured two ground balls and a strikeout. Time and again he showed good command of all of his pitches, including the sinker, cutter, and the new change-up he has been working on. He was especially effective against right-handed batters, as his pitches were consistently running tightly in on their hands and giving them nothing to work with.
The Royals' only run came in the 7th inning on a solo home run by Tony Cruz. Graveman gave up a single following that, but then quickly retired the next two batters to gracefully escape the frame.
Overall, Graveman was fantastic. His strike/ball ratio was excellent and he worked quickly and efficiently. I don't have an exact pitch count, but he had only thrown 79 pitches through 6 innings. His fastball was hitting 94mph and as stated above, he was getting good results with his full repertoire. Some of those strikeouts against right-handed batters sounded really nasty on the radio and I can't wait to see more like them this season on TV. The only thing that was somewhat worrying (aside from the error) was the groundball ratio; by my count, Graveman got 10 outs in the air and only 6 on the ground. But if he can get strikeouts like he did today, maybe that's not a big deal.
Offense Pounces on Mistakes
The A's followed the age-old mantra of "Score early, score often." Coco opened up the game for us with a double to the wall in left field. Does he still have something left in the tank? Coghlan came up to bat next and launched the absolute definition of a no-doubter to right field. Ken Korach called it the before the ball had even left his bat, and I'm realllllly wishing there were video highlights of this game so I could see such a prodigious wallop. The next 3 batters went down quietly, but the A's would strike again in the 2nd inning off a Lowrie home run. It sounded like a high fly ball that just kinda kept carrying over the fence, and along with Lowrie's 7 doubles this Spring, contributes to an extremely impressive 1.313 OPS for the returning infielder.
The A's opened the game wide open in the 5th inning, hitting aggressively and capitalizing on multiple Royals errors. This inning would have given me PTSD from last season (and indeed, perhaps a certain game in 2014 that I maintain never happened) if the teams had been reversed. Alonso the OBP machine laced a ground ball into right field for a single, and after a Phegley strikeout, Coco reached base safely after Royals pitcher Chris Young failed to handle a come-backer.
And the machine lurched into motion. Coghlan singled. Reddick singled, and Alonso and Crisp were able to score on an E7 by Gore. Valencia singled, bringing Coghlan home and Reddick to 3rd. Davis followed up with an absolute rocket to center field that was scored as a sac-fly E8; Orlando bobbled the ball, allowing Reddick to score and Davis to reach 1st safely.
Brian Duensing came in for the Royals to limit the damage, but it wouldn't end there. Lowrie advanced Valencia to 3rd on a fielders' choice and then something incredible happened. I'm not making this up: Billy Butler hit an infield single. Supposedly, it was a slow roller up the middle that Clint Barmes just couldn't handle in time to get the out at 1st. I'm not sure I'll be convinced until I see video. Either way, Valencia scores, and the A's batted through the order as Alonso came up to the plate again and flew out to right field to end the inning.
The 5th inning is why I, and a lot of other posters, are pretty optimistic about our offense this season. They kept the line moving, put together good at-bats and made productive outs (and should-have-been outs -- Thanks Royals!). When all cylinders is pumping this is a formidable offense 1-9.
The A's scored 2 more runs in the 6th, aided by yet another Royals error. Center fielder Logan Moon bobbled a towering fly ball hit by Reddick, allowing Coghlan to score all the way from 1st while Reddick made it safely to 3rd. Danny Valencia continues to rake, hitting a laser into left field to score Reddick and earn the 10th and final run of the day for the green and gold. Even if only 5 of the 10 runs today were earned, the A's put on a great show on offense.
Other Thoughts & Observations
- Aside from the two errors described above (Graveman throwing wide of 1st on a pickoff attempt and Coghlan missing Alonso on a throw), Eric Sogard made a boo-boo in the 8th inning for Oakland's 3rd error of the day. Sogard tried to start a 6-4-3 double play before he had full control of the ball, bobbling it and allowing both runners to advance safely. He redeemed himself on the very next play by spearing a screaming line drive and converting a 6-4 double play. Hopefully we won't be seeing much of Sogard at shortstop, or really at all, this season. So I'm not too concerned about it.
- Matt Chapman sighting! The prodigal son didn't enter the game until the 8th inning. He drew a walk after battling valiantly against the flame-throwing Kelvin Herrera and then made a great throw on a chopper for the final out of the game.
- Mark Rzepczynski and Ryan Dull both pitched well in the 8th and 9th, respectively. Dull racked up 2 more strikeouts.
- A final word on Graveman's GB/FB ratio, the only thing about his performance that really gave me cause for worry. It seemed like a lot of the contact he was giving up was fairly soft, making for some lazy flyouts. A few of them did go back on/near the warning track, especially in the middle innings, but overall it wasn't like he was getting drilled. Considering the excellent command he showed across his various pitches, I'm hoping we'll see more groundball outs once we're back in the colder, wetter confines of the Coliseum. Arizona is not kind to pitchers.