HOUSTON — Carving through the Astros’ lineup with remarkable ease, Kendall Graveman turned in the best start of his major league career Saturday.
The right-hander took a shutout into the ninth before giving way to his bullpen as the A’s rang up 3-2 victory at Minute Maid Park. Graveman gave up just five hits, kept his pitch count under check and, entering the ninth at 90 pitches, stood a solid chance at getting his first career shutout.
A’s manager Bob Melvin lifted him after consecutive singles to begin the ninth from Jake Marisnick and Marwin Gonzalez, and Ryan Dull entered with men on the corners and no outs. The Astros scored on Jose Altuve’s fielder’s choice grounder — ending Dull’s major league-record streak of 36 consecutive runners stranded — but after another run came in, Dull closed out the A’s second win in three games of this four-game set.
Despite falling short of his first nine-inning complete game, the 25-year-old Graveman (5-6) still turned in what has to be considered his best game as a big leaguer. He struck out three, didn’t walk a batter, and continued what’s been an impressive run for him to close the first half. He’s won three of his past four starts and hasn’t taken a loss since May 19.
Dull had to work hard to close out this one. He also surrendered Valbuena’s run-scoring single to make it a one-run game, but he got Carlos Gomez to whiff on an off-speed pitch to end it.
Starting pitching report:
Graveman didn’t allow a base runner until A.J. Reed’s two-out single in the fifth. He faced just two over the minimum through the first eight innings and left after 93 pitches, with two runs charged to his record. The A’s have now gone 139 games in a row without a complete game, the second longest streak in franchise history.
Dull entered the day looking like he might have a chance to make the All-Star Game as Craig Kimbrel’s injury replacement. But Toronto’s Aaron Sanchez was selected instead. It doesn’t diminish Dull’s first half work. His stranded-runners streak was the longest in the major leagues dating back to at least 1961, and he even appeared in control as two runs crossed the plate with him on the mound Saturday. He entered with runners on the corners, and Altuve’s grounder nearly became a double play as Marisnick scored. Luis Valbuena’s RBI single made it 3-2, but even that was a sharp grounder that found a hole.
At the plate:
Stephen Vogt was instrumental in both of the A’s scoring rallies and fell just a triple shy of the cycle. He hit an opposite-field homer to left in the second off Lance McCullers (4-3). An inning later, he punched a single through the hole at short to score Josh Reddick after Reddick singled and advanced to second on a balk. McCullers would proceed to walk three in a row later that inning to force in a run, and the 22-year-old righty would be gone after four innings.
Vogt later blasted a double that reached Tal’s Hill in center. But for all the hits the A’s collected (10), they had trouble cashing in and breaking the game open. Oakland went 2-for-10 with runners in scoring position, and No. 9 hitter Tyler Ladendorf — starting at third with Danny Valencia on the bench — stranded eight runners by himself.
In the field:
The A’s backed Graveman with their 15th consecutive errorless game, extending a franchise-record streak. Second baseman Jed Lowrie went up the middle in the eighth to begin a pretty 4-6-3 double play that ended that inning.
A crowd of 35,312 showed up.
The A’s close the first half with an 11:10 a.m. game Sunday, as Sean Manaea (3-5, 5.85) matches up against lefty Dallas Keuchel (6-9, 5.02), whose current bloated ERA is actually the lowest it has been since May 7.