Kendall Graveman threw by far his best start of the year, an absolute gem that had the A's on a sure path to victory. The bullpen didn't quite comply, but the offense bailed Ryan Madson out, and the A's walkoff victoriously against the Angels by a score of 3-2.
The A's score first
The A's struck first in the second inning. Danny Valencia led off with an almost dinger off the rightfield scoreboard. He landed on second base and moved to third as Andrelton Simmons threw Khris Davis's infield single away. After a Jed Lowrie strikeout, Yonder Alonso would bring Valencia home with a sacrifice fly to right.
Per usual, the A's failed to maximize the opportunity, but a run is a run is a run, especially against a hot pitcher like Matt Shoemaker.
The Angels strike back
The A's, as averse to shutdown innings as they are to productive outs, failed in the third to shutdown the Angels. In a 1-1 count, Cole Kalhoun absolutely ruined a Kendall Graveman curveball that did no such thing. It was just a solo shot, tying the score at 1-1, but it's an example of Graveman's flaw: when he misses, he might as well throw the ball over the fence himself.
The A's take the lead
I'll give you one guess as to how Khris Davis put the A's on top. Yup, he crushed a dinger to deep center for a solo homerun in the fourth, putting the A's on top, 2-1. The man isn't going to walk much, he's going to strikeout a lot, but he'll make it all worth it as he increases his already impressive homerun total. At some point this year, Davis will break a Plexiglas window in deep center, and at some point he's turn a ball into steam. I can't wait.
Frankly, Graveman was pretty settled even with the Calhoun dinger. It was a lone mistake in an otherwise flawless start. After that hit, Graveman wouldn't allow another baserunner. He was perfect in innings 4-7, inducing nine very weak groundballs. It's what you hope for in any Graveman start. He was economical, worked qiuckly and induced groundballs without wasting pitches, the bane of even his best outings.
All his pitches were working. He worked both sides of the plate, and he threw some downright unhittable pitches. When he bores that sinker inside to righties? They have no shot. The key is location, and all night, Graveman hit his spots with ace like precision.
Also of note, the A's didn't really do Graveman any favors behind him. In the first, Marcus Semien 2015'd a Trout groundball, double clutching before throwing late and off line for his sixth error of the year on a play that should have ended the inning. Albert Pujols followed with a weak groundball basehit into the hole, but Graveman would induce a lineout to end the frame. If anything, Graveman's statline undersells just how good he was today.
Doolittle and Madson get the job done in the eighth
Things got dicey immediately after Graveman's departure. In the top of the eighth, Doolittle came in and promptly gave up a double to Andrelton Simmons. It was just a groundball down the leftfield line, and past a weirdly positioned Danny Valencia who was playing the opposite of no doubles defense. Confusing, but no matter for the A's stud relievers: a bunt and a popup would end Doolittle's night, and Ryan Madson would get Mike Trout to flyout to end the frame.
When I was younger, my favorite toy was a set of trains. You could make your own trains by connecting different train cars by magnets, and it gave four to six year old me the feeling of autonomy even though I really wasn't doing anything.
Some of those cars were just garbage. For no particular reason, they'd only have a magnet on one side. They forced their way into either being the front car or the caboose, even though they didn't look like either. It always made me mad and at four to six years old, I was baffled as to how they came to exist.
The A's pitching this year is like that useless train car. When the starters are good, the bullpen can't connect to finish the game. When the bullpen is great, the score is already a lot to a little, usually in favor of the opponent.
In the ninth, Madson came out, trying to induce a four out save. As you can probably guess, he did no such thing, although some of that was just plain luck. With one out, Jeffry Marte singled to the hole between short and third, a true BABIP base-hit. Daniel Nava lined a ball into the diving glove of Jake Smolinski to follow. The umpires initally ruled it a catch and a double play, as Smolinski threw to first base before pinch runner Todd Cunningham could return to the bag.
After a short and accurate replay discussion, it was determined that Smolinski trapped the ball and instead of a game ending double play, the Angels had runners at first and third with one out. Johnny Giovatella, better known as the white Erick Aybar, annoying drove in Cunningham with a sacrifice fly to right, tying the game and forcing extras.
The A's bail out Madson
The ninth started innocuously enough. With two outs, Semien walked. Jake Smolinski moved him to third with a single, bringing the struggling Billy Burns to the plate. Burns grounded a ball into leftfield to get the job done, scoring Semien from third and ending the game in pie. Is there anything sweeter than beating the Angels on a walkoff?
Some other notes
-Billy Burns, in spite of the walkoff, continued to look downright terrible at the plate. His at bats are the eyeball's version of stepping on a Lego. Tonight, he popped out in foul territory twice, both on very hittable pitches turned auto-outs by meager swings. Someone in the A's dugout needs to tell him to swing for the fences when he's ahead in the count. Right now, he's swinging like his life depends on contact, and his numbers are suffering as a result.
-Semien has started every day, and I don't think an off day would kill him. He looked less than stellar today. Maybe that's a one day, small sample thing, but I personally see no reason not to give him a night to rest his body and mind.
-Danny fucking Valencia is the man
If you thought this rivalry matchup couldn't get any sadder, think again. Tomorrow, Tim Lincecum starts for the Angels. Tim Lincecum is awesome, but he's probably not a good pitcher. He's a microcosm of the state of both teams
Doesn't matter. Let's sweep the Angels!