Graveman turns in best start of the season

June 18th, 2016

OAKLAND -- Kendall Graveman turned in seven innings of one-run ball against the Angels on Friday night, and the late-inning relief duo of Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson did its part in securing the 3-2 victory, getting an assist from Billy Burns in the form of a walk-off base hit in the ninth.

This is precisely the pitching formula the A's envision on most days but rarely see unfold.

Graveman's performance was his best of the season. The right-hander, who has often struggled to give the A's even five innings, breezed through seven, retiring the last 13 batters he faced.

Only once in his previous seven starts had he even managed to get through six innings, going no more than 4 1/3 in three of his last four.

"Best we've seen him yet," A's manager Bob Melvin said, "and I think he found out if he throws his sinker in the zone, as long as it's down, he can get a lot of ground balls. And he got a lot of groundballs, and that's vintage Kendall."

There were 13 of them, to be exact, with only three outs recorded in the air. The game plan stemmed from a conversation Graveman had early in the game with catcher Stephen Vogt, who told him, "Hey, I'm going to get down there in the bottom of the zone. Just hit my mitt."

"He gave me a small target, and with the sinker working today, we stuck with it," Graveman said. "That wasn't the plan going in. We thought we were going to have to mix in more offspeed, but that's the way baseball is sometimes. You go in with a plan and then something else is working really well, so you just stick to it."

Graveman's lone mistake came in the form of a solo home run to Kole Calhoun in the third that tied the game, if only momentarily; Khris Davis' 16th home run of the season, a solo shot in the fourth, put the A's, and Graveman, back on top.

The right-hander returned with a shutdown inning with ease, and he cruised from there, departing at 91 pitches having lowered his ERA from 5.28 to 4.87.

"I wanted him to finish on a good note," Melvin said. "He's been struggling some, and he had done his job in the seventh, we always feel good with our bullpen."

"I feel like I've put in a lot of work between starts to get back to back to the fundamentals and basics," Graveman said.