With his A’s teammates trying to shake off their recent poor play, Kendall Graveman was looking to flush some bad memories of his own.
In his first major league start in nearly a month, Graveman delivered the sharp, efficient outing that Oakland needed Saturday in a 5-0 victory over Tampa Bay. He bottled up the Rays offense over six-plus shutout innings, showing the poise and confidence that had been missing since his outstanding spring training performance.
It had to be an uplifting performance for the 24-year-old right-hander, who was demoted April 26 after posting an 8.27 ERA over four starts. He rediscovered his fastball command and honed his changeup with Triple-A Nashville, and the difference was obvious as Graveman notched just the second win by an A’s starting pitcher over the last 12 games.
The A’s snapped a four-game losing streak and registered just their sixth win in 22 games during May.
With Graveman dealing, it bought time for Oakland’s hitters, who finally broke through with four runs in the sixth after being held down by Rays right-hander Nathan Karns (3-2) up to that point.
Starting pitching report
Graveman (2-2) was excellent in his first start back from the minors. His sinker had terrific movement and he was hitting the corners. He also flashed an effective curve on occasion to keep the Rays honest. He left after issuing a leadoff walk to David DeJesus in the bottom of the seventh, his pitch count at 93. This was the Cactus League version of Graveman, as he kept his pitch count low and kept his infielders engaged by inducing nine ground-ball outs from the 18 outs that he recorded. He also struck out six and held the Rays to just three hits. He walked two.
Evan Scribner came on in the seventh and delivered two shutdown innings and Tyler Clippard handled the ninth as the A’s notched their AL-leading sixth shutout.
At the plate
The A’s were coming up empty with runners on base early, and they were in an 0-for-17 rut with men in scoring position over the past two games until their four-run sixth broke a scoreless tie. Credit Eric Sogard with the key hit, as he punched a two-out single up the middle off reliever Xavier Cedeno to score Josh Reddick and give the A’s a lead. Mark Canha worked a walk to load the bases and then Sam Fuld – who came in hitting .077 over his past 22 games – knocked a two-run single to center that wound up plating three as Canha scored on an error.
Oakland gladly accepted some charity in the eighth – as the Rays’ Enny Romero issued four consecutive two-out walks to force in a run and make it 5-0. The final of those was issued to Billy Burns, and it gave the switch hitter his first career RBI in his 32nd big league game.
In the field
The Rays entered having committed the fewest errors in the majors (15), but in a reversal of roles, it was Tampa Bay that made the careless mistakes in this one. On Fuld’s two-RBI single with the bases loaded, center fielder Kevin Kiermaier couldn’t come up with the ball cleanly. With Mark Canha trying to score all the way from first, Kiermaier’s strong throw to the plate was in time, but catcher Rene Rivera let it bounce off his glove. Three runs scored on the play, and the A’s were up 4-0.
With Tampa Bay trying to climb back in it in the bottom of the seventh, A’s catcher Josh Phegley made a strong throw to second to nail David DeJesus on his steal attempt, helping to nip that rally in the bud.
This seven-game road trip wraps as the A’s send Sonny Gray (4-2, 1.92) to the mound in Sunday’s 10:10 a.m. series finale. Erasmo Ramirez (2-1, 6.44) starts for Tampa Bay.