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Game Thread #27: A's at Twins

Graveman credits a 4th inning mound visit from Stephen Vogt in 2016 at Target Field for changing the trajectory of his career
Graveman credits a 4th inning mound visit from Stephen Vogt in 2016 at Target Field for changing the trajectory of his career
Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

This has been a painful road trip for the boys from Oakland...Dropping 5 out of 6 to divisional rivals in Anaheim and Houston. Watching batter after batter flail at sliders, change-ups, 2 seamers and pretty much anything else tossed up to home plate. Add on top of this, last night's drubbing at the hands of A's killer Earvin Santana and a host of Twins bashers and Sean Doolittle being added to the DL and it is no wonder A's nation woke up this morning feeling depressed. Let Minnesota's own son, the late great artist known (or formally known) as Prince, sum up how a lot of us are feeling today from his iconic song, "Let's Go Crazy." "Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today, to get through this thing called (A's) life."
Cheer up my fellow A's Nation members...All is not lost! Every team wins 60 games, loses 60 games and what they do with the other 60 games ultimately determines the success of a season...Call me an eternal optimist, but I believe the A's can still take those additional 60 games!

Today's Lineups

Rajai Davis - CF Brian Dozier - 2B
Trevor Plouffe - 3B Max Kepler - RF
Ryon Healy - DH Miguel Sano - 3B
Khris Davis - LF Joe Mauer - 1B
Josh Phegley - C Kennys Vargas - DH
Adam Rosales - SS Jason Castro - C
Yonder Alonso - 1B Eduardo Escobar - SS
Chad Pinder - 2B Eddie Rosario - LF
Matt Joyce - RF Byron Buxton - CF
Kendall Graveman - RHP Hector Santiago - LHP

Here are 4 reasons to be excited about tonight's matchup vs. the Twins and beyond:

1. We got Kendall Graveman on the bump tonight!
Graveman, fresh off the 10 day DL in his last start, reminded us once again why he has arrived as one of the elite pitchers in the American League...Why is he so good? Because He has one of the best pitches in baseball...a wicked sinker that absolutely eats right handed batters for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Did you know Graveman was first taught his signature sinker grip when he was in junior high, by a guy who now coaches junior college girls softball? And did you know Graveman attended the same high school at former 49ers star, Terrell Owens? (Who by the way, deserves to be in the Hall of Fame).. I expect Graveman to keep the Twins in the yard tonight with his sinking fastball and give the A's a great chance to grab the middle game of this 3 game series.

2. Khris Davis absolutely "krushes" baseballs on Wednesdays
Davis has become a "must-watch" at-bat for A's fans over the past 2 seasons and he comes into tonight's game hitting .429 on Wednesdays in 2017! On top of this encouraging stat, Target Field's power ally's are only 377 ft. (Left Center) and 367 ft. (Right Center), a welcome sight for "Krush" Davis.
(okay, I admit, it took me 15 minutes to find any positive offensive numbers for the A's going into tonight's game, but hey, hitting .429 on Wednesday's, has to be good for something, right?!!)

3. "I (Still) Believe in Stephen Vogt"
I understand why we are all so down on Vogt. Basestealers are waltzing to 2nd base on him in record numbers.
Pitch framing statistics show us he is among the worst in the game. His bat looks slower than than the fast lane on the Bay Bridge at rush hour. But Vogt's value goes beyond statistics. In fact, it was at Target Field last July where Kendall Graveman credits Vogt for launching his season and career forward with a 4th inning mound visit...Read this great behind the scenes look from baseball prospectus:

"The way Graveman remembers it, he was in a jam at Target Field on the Fourth of July. Making his 42nd career major-league start and 16th for the A’s that season, he came in with a 4.84 ERA, not the results hoped for. Graveman was doing all right against the Twins in a scoreless game, but they had loaded the bases on a Miguel Sano walk in the fourth inning, putting Max Kepler in position to put up a crooked number. The count was 1-0, and catcher Stephen Vogt called for time, went to the mound and told Graveman to stop shaking him off and to start throwing his best pitch. Like, exclusively. "He said, ‘I’m gonna set up in the middle of the plate and you just throw the sinker,’ because it had such good movement," Graveman recalled. So he did. Graveman’s first offering was up and caught too much of the plate. A’s television analyst Ray Fosse noted that Graveman was lucky Kepler merely fouled it back. Vogt set up again where he said he would and Graveman, who had come in tied for the AL lead in ground-ball double plays, responded with a better pitch—a 93-mph sinker with late movement that Kepler chopped toward second. The A’s couldn’t turn a double play and the Twins scored to take the lead, but a light bulb illuminated Graveman’s world. He started throwing sinkers. A lot of sinkers. At one point, the Twins made nine straight outs on grounders, and they didn’t score any more runs that day. With the help of run support and reliever Ryan Dull, who wriggled from another jam later on, the A’s won 3-1."Graveman recalled telling A’s ace Sonny Gray afterward, "I was just throwing it down the middle."Gray, nudging his young teammate along mentally, replied: "Yeah, you should realize that your sinker is good enough to get people out."Those were enough hints, Graveman thought. From then on, it's been (almost) nothing but sinkers."We were like, ‘Hey, let’s take it to the next game,’" Graveman said of Vogt’s tactical shift. "Trust in Vogter."

Vogt's all-star selections may be in the past, but his relationship with the A's pitchers is invaluable and I still believe he will begin to hit and contribute offensively to this team at key points this season.

4. Target Field is a preview of what is to come in Oakland

Target Field became an instant classic when it debuted in 2010. Other than absolutely killing Joe Maur's career, Target Field is an amazing place to watch baseball. It has a intimate feel (40,000 capacity), modern features (the seats are 2 inches wider than the average stadium seat, making each vantage point more comfortable; has a cool rooftop fire pit and the best scoreboard in baseball and a center field restaurant which everyone saw prominently featured in last night's game). Target Field has also uses grass from the same farm that provides turf to Wrigley Field and Notre Dame Football Stadium. I apologize for the love fest with the opposing team's ballpark, but let tonight's images from Target Field give all of us hope...In a few short years, we might have something in Oakland just as majestic. You may not believe in Stephen Vogt, but I think we all believe Dave Kaval is going to get us a stadium the rest of baseball will be jealous of...Let tonight provide hope of what is yet to come for all A's fans!

For the love of a Bob Melvin bobblehead, let's get a win tonight boys!!