OAKLAND -- While A’s manager Bob Melvin pointed to the final three outs Kendall Graveman recorded in the seventh inning as possibly the biggest of the A’s 2-0 win on Saturday, Graveman made a case for one that came much earlier.
Graveman got into some trouble in the first inning against the Mariners when Austin Jackson doubled with one out and Robinson Cano drew a walk, bringing up slugger Nelson Cruz, who entered the game with 21 home runs and 50 RBIs.
With two strikes, however, Jackson made an attempt to steal third base, and was thrown out by A’s catcher Stephen Vogt. Graveman then finished Cruz for a strikeout and didn’t allow another runner to reach scoring position until the seventh inning while out-dueling Mariners ace Felix Hernandez.
"I think that was one of the biggest outs of the game," Graveman said. "It kind of gets us going. One out there with Nelson Cruz at the plate, that was one of the bigger outs."
It was a questionable decision by Jackson to attempt the steal as he was already in scoring position for Cruz. Vogt said he was "a little bit" surprised to see Jackson running, but still made an accurate throw to catch his 13th would-be stealer in 39 attempts this season.
"You could tell he was trying to go, maybe he thought he saw something with our signs that we were throwing a breaking ball or something, or just assumed in a 1-2 count for Cruz," Vogt said. "But not too surprised. Anytime you can get to third with less than two outs it’s a good idea. Fortunately Kendall was quick to the plate."
* Another key defensive play, however, did come in the seventh. With two Mariners on and one out, Seth Smith hit a chopper that first baseman Ike Davis speared on a dive. His flip to the bag led Graveman enough that Graveman had to lunge to catch it and touch the bag at the same time, but Graveman secured the second out.
"It’s probably the longest stride he’s taken in his life," Melvin said.
Graveman credited Davis with "a great play" and not hesitating on the flip, which made it easier for Graveman to finish the play despite the flip being out in front of him.
"He gave it to me early enough that I was able to track the ball and the base at the same time," Graveman said. "Hats off to him for getting it out of the glove quick."
* While the A’s jumped on Hernandez for a 1-0 lead in the first, they ran themselves out a potentially bigger inning. In a first-and-third situation with two outs, Josh Reddick took off early for second, giving Hernandez time to step off the mound and throw to the base. Vogt then tried to score from home and was thrown out easily.
Reddick had gotten a good jump on a pitch earlier in the at-bat, but had to retreat to first when Davis fouled the pitch off. Melvin said Reddick has a green light in that situation, "But he’s got to make sure (Hernandez) goes home."
"I’m not even sure they’re going to throw through in that position," Melvin said. "But you can’t give him the opportunity to step off and make an out. He just left a little too early."
* The A’s most likely did not expect at the beginning of the season for their primary set-up men in early July to be left-hander Drew Pomeranz and right-hander Edward Mujica. Pomeranz began the season in the starting rotation. Mujica in April wasn’t even in the A’s organization.
That, however, is where things stand in the A’s bullpen. Pomeranz got the eighth inning in a 2-0 game Saturday and preserved the lead for closer Tyler Clippard, who recorded his 15th save. As a reliever this season, Pomeranz has a 1.35 ERA in 14 appearances and has held opponents to a .178 batting average.
"You have a lefty starter that’s used to looking at eight righties in the lineup, typically you know he can get both the lefties and righties out," Melvin said. As an example on Saturday, Melvin felt comfortable leaving Pomeranz in to face right-handed Austin Jackson with a runner on and two outs in a two-run game (and Robinson Cano, a left-handed hitter, on deck). Pomeranz retired Jackson on a pop-out.
* Melvin recently called Vogt a "magnet," saying it seems like every time Vogt catches he takes a foul tip off of his body somewhere. A couple of them found Vogt on Saturday -- including one on his inside right leg where he already had a sizeable bruise.
"Right on the same spot," Vogt said. "Pretty cool. It’s been a lot of fun lately."
In seriousness, Vogt said that physically he’s "just banged up" but "fine." He’s dealing with nothing like the foot injury that limited him last season, but regular aches and pains for a catcher at mid-season.
Despite that, Vogt went 2-for-3 against Hernandez on Saturday and is now 9-for-15 against the Mariners’ ace in his career.
"Blind squirrel I guess," Vogt said. "He’s so good, his stuff -- I think that’s part of it, is I go up there with no expectations and see what happens."
* By beating Hernandez at home for the first time since 2008, the A’s can still win this four-game series and salvage a 5-5 record on their homestand. They’ll start Chris Bassitt (0-1, 2.87) in the finale Sunday against Mariners left-hander Mike Montgomery (3-2, 1.62). First pitch at 1:05 p.m.