Tempering the A’s spirited comeback in an 8-2 win over the Tampa Bay Rays on Sunday was the revelation that starter Kendall Graveman could miss significant time with an abdominal injury.
Graveman threw six scoreless innings Sunday but left after 84 pitches because of a strained muscle. Graveman was scheduled to undergo further tests Monday, but manager Bob Melvin did not sound optimistic after Sunday’s game.
“Might be a little while,” Melvin said.
Graveman said he felt the muscle “grab” on his second-to-last pitch in the sixth inning. He made one more pitch to strike out Evan Longoria and preserve a then-one-run lead. He said he has not dealt with abdominal issues before and that the timing of the injury, coming in perhaps his best outing of the second half, was frustrating.
“You’re feeling good, you’re rolling and putting up zeroes, and that happens,” he said. “But it’s part of the game.”
If Graveman lands on the disabled list, his season could be over. Recovery from an abdominal strain can take up to six weeks, and with a little more than a month of the season remaining and the A’s out of playoff contention, it would make little sense for the A’s to rush Graveman back.
In his rookie season with the A’s after arriving from Toronto in the Josh Donaldson trade, Graveman is 6-9 with a 4.05 ERA. With the A’s leaving Sunday afternoon on a trip to Seattle and Arizona, Graveman said he was going to stay behind and get checked out in Oakland on Monday.
“We’ll kind of play it by ear,” he said.
▪ Otherwise, the A’s could enjoy their flight to Seattle following a rare blowout win. The action happened mostly in the seventh, in which the teams combined to score nine runs. After the Rays scored twice to take a 2-1 lead in the top of the inning, the A’s broke out for seven runs on eight hits in their half while sending 12 batters to the plate.
“That was fun,” catcher Stephen Vogt said. “We haven’t really had offensive fun like that in a while.”
Brett Lawrie tied the score 2-2 with an RBI single, Eric Sogard’s two-run single put the A’s ahead, and Mark Canha broke it open with a bases-loaded triple to continue a torrid two-week stretch. In his last 12 games, Canha is batting .435 with seven extra-base hits and 11 RBIs. If you missed it, today’s print story included the adjustment he made to his swing before this recent stretch.
“Really overall if you look at his year, it’s been a pretty good year,” Melvin said. “As I said a couple of times, too, I think the sickness that he had (earlier in the season) really kind of set him back some, not only performance during it, but getting back into the swing of things after it. Yeah, he’s ready to play every day.”
The A’s did have a runner thrown out at the plate in the inning – their 19th of the season, tying them with Detroit for most in the majors – and nearly had another when Lawrie ran through
third-base coach Mike Gallego’s stop sign on Billy Butler’s double to right-center. Rays catcher Rene Rivera bobbled the relay throw, giving Lawrie time to about-face and scramble back to third base.
It wasn’t a banner day for A’s baserunners. They also ran themselves out of a potential bases-loaded situation in the sixth. Josh Reddick reached on a two-out error by Rays first baseman James Loney, but Billy Burns took too big a turn around second base, forcing Sam Fuld off of third and into a rundown, where he was tagged out.
“Good offense can make some of those things go away,” Melvin said.
▪ Melvin said of the seventh: “Those are as good of at-bats as we’ve had in a while.”
He was asked specifically about Butler, who went 1 for 4 on Sunday but did help set up the big inning with his opposite-field double. Melvin said that’s the approach Butler, who’s batting .234 this season, needs to take.
“You watch him take the ball the other way, and that keeps the ball off the ground and lets him get a longer look at it,” Melvin said. “He knows that, and he’s been working hard to try to get to that point.
“Sometimes when you’re struggling it’s tough to do. You don’t want to be late; you don’t want to get jammed. But when he sees the ball a little bit deeper and thinks right-center field, he gets the barrel a little more on it and keeps it off the ground. And certainly, his at-bats are a little better because of it.”
▪ A’s pitchers did not allow a home run, snapping an Oakland-era record of 16 straight games in which they had allowed at least one.
▪ You’ll sometimes hear Melvin talk about how certain players can keep themselves out of prolonged slumps with their speed, which allows them to bunt for a hit or beat out an infield grounder every so often. Burns is the epitome of that player. He entered Sunday’s game hitless in 10 at-bats, but had three hits, including an infield single and a triple that he drove into the right-center field gap.
Burns has a team-leading multihit games this season, a number that leads all American League rookies. His speed was a known commodity before this year, but perhaps the most remarkable part of his rookie season has been his consistency on offense. A three-hit day Sunday raised Burns’ average back to .293, and it seems every time he starts to dip under .300 he boosts it back up.
▪ After losing a one-run lead in the ninth on Saturday, the A’s saw another slip away in the seventh on Sunday. Melvin credited his team with resilience in the finale of their series against the Rays.
“To be able to put those kind of at-bats together, that’s the kind of thing we were talking about earlier today,” he said. “You’ve really just got to separate, and put all your efforts and focus into one particular day.”
Next up for the A’s is a three-game series against the Mariners in Seattle. The pitching probables for that series:
On Monday, LHP Felix Doubront (1-1, 3.89) vs. RHP Hisashi Iwakuma (5-2, 3.74).
On Tuesday, RHP Jesse Chavez (7-12, 3.75) vs. LHP Mike Montgomery (4-6, 4.16).
On Wednesday, RHP Chris Bassitt (1-5, 2.48) vs. RHP Felix Hernandez (14-8, 3.74).