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Game #27: A's lose 7-4; Graveman knocked out early, comback falls short

Alonso hits homer #6, but A's lose for 7th time in 8 games on current road trip
Alonso hits homer #6, but A's lose for 7th time in 8 games on current road trip
Jordan Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Kendall Graveman coudn't survive the 4th inning (3 1/3, 6 runs, 5 hits, 4 walks, 94 pitches) and Twins starter Hector Santiago and 3 relievers held the A's to 4 runs in the 7-4 Twins victory in front of 18,658 at Target Field.  It was the A's 7th loss in 8 games on the current 9 game road trip. Yonder Alonso belted another home run (#6) for the Green and Gold and the A's loaded the bases to make things interesting in the 9th inning, but a Trevor Plouffe ground ball double play with one out and the bases loaded would end the A's evening.

***Gamethread and comments can be found here***
****Catcher, Josh Phegley likely headed to 7-day Concussion DL****

Twins starter and familiar A's foe, Hector Santiago, coming off the bereavement list (best wishes to Hector's family after the loss of his Grandmother, Nelly), set the A's down in order in the 1st inning.  Unfortunately, Kendall Graveman couldn't match Santiago's effort in the bottom half of the inning.  Graveman walked Brian Dozier to start the game (Not a bad idea after Dozier's 2 homeruns last night).  After striking out Max Kepler, Graveman uncharacteristically (he was once named to the all-SEC defensive team while at Mississippi State) threw wildly to 1st base on a pick-off attempt, putting Dozier on 3rd base for the dangerous Miguel Sano...Graveman, struggling with command, promptly walked Sano and Joe Mauer, before Twins Designated Hitter, Kenny Vargas, would single home two runs to put the Twins on the board.

Khris Davis would single and Yonder Alonso would walk in the top of the 2nd, but the A's, in a common theme during this road trip, couldn't deliver with runners on base.  In the 3rd, Matt Joyce would double and Rajai Davis would single to put runners on the corners with one out to bring up former Twins #1 draft pick, Trevor Plouffe.  Plouffe would be induced by Santiago to hit into a double play to plate Joyce but put an end to a larger offensive outburst. It was one of Plouffe's two double plays with runners in scoring position on the evening...(he realizes he doesn't play for the Twins anymore, right?!).

The Twins designated hitter,Vargas, would come up with two runners on in the 3rd against Graveman and crush a 3-run homer to deep center.  The pitch was actually a decent pitch for Graveman (down and away), but credit to Vargas and the Twins offense who haven't seemed to miss an opportunity to drive in runners in scoring position so far in this series.

After 3 innings the score was Kennys Vargas 5, A's 1.

In the 4th inning, the A's offensive showed some life as Khris Davis lasered a ball to left centerfield that Minnesota speedster, Byron Buxton would make an outstanding catch on.

With 2 outs in the inning, Adam Rosales walked and Yonder Alonso would follow with a blast over the 23 foot wall in right field to bring the A's back into contention at 5-3.

Unfortunately, Graveman would continue to struggle in the bottom half of the 4th, allowing a lead-off triple to the aforementioned Buxton (on a curious route by Rajai Davis).  After inducing a groundout with the infield in, Graveman would be at 94 pitches and BoMel (which on a side note, have you reached your limit on the endless TV and radio promotions of Bob Melvin Bobblehead Day yet??) would turn to the bullpen.

The A's bullpen certainly wasn't perfect but it was adequate in allowing only 1 run in 4 2/3 innings.  Liam Hendricks, the former Twin, replaced Graveman and allowed an inherited run to score, but struck out a red hot Miguel Sano and retired the Twins in order in the 5th.  Meanwhile, the A's offense continued their quest to nominate "American League Pitchers of the Week" as Hector Santiago cruised through the 5th and 6th innings, while the Twins tacked on a 6th inning run off Bobby Wahl. making his MLB debut.

Lefties, Daniel Columbe (A's) and Taylor Rodgers (Twins) and Righties, Ryan Madson (A"s) and Matt Belisle (Twins) would keep both offenses off the board in the 7th and 8th innings, setting up a dramatic top of the 9th for the A's...

With Twins closer, Brandon Kintzler (a former 40th round pick!) on the hill, the A's would load the bases (thanks to a Adam Rosales single, a Yonder Alonso single and an excellent 9 pitch battle from pitch hitter, Jed Lowrie) to bring up the tying run in Matt Joyce.  Joyce squeezed a ground ball between 1st and 2nd to make the score 7-4 with the bases still loaded and nobody out.  Could this be the comeback and jumpstart the A's so desperately needed?  Not tonight.  The next batter, Rajai Davis forced the runner at home with a weak grounder to 3rd. And then Trevor Plouffe, who has yet to create a fan club among A's fans, would stride to the plate and pathetically ground into a game ending 4-6-3 double play.

This road trip has certainly sobered all of us A's fans on the potential of the 2017 A's, who began the trip at .500 and in 2nd place in the A.L. West.  But we must keep in perspective (I am mostly talking to myself!), the A's are only 5 games under 500 at 11-16 and the 2017 version of the Oakland A's appears to be a team that will go on streaks (Both hot and cold).  So keep your heads up, A's Nation, it is only the beginning of May and Franklin Barreto and the Nashville crew will be on their way shortly!