A's find themselves in decent shape with Graveman, Gray possibly returning

A's find themselves in decent shape with Graveman, Gray possibly returning

OAKLAND — Some 10-9 records are better than others, and so it is that the A’s can hit the road for a nine-game trip feeling pretty good about themselves.

Their just-completed homestand began with Opening Night starter Kendall Graveman leaving a game early and landing on the disabled list. That was coupled with news that shortstop Marcus Semien would be lost for two months or more with a fractured wrist.

The A’s responded to those developments with a five-game winning streak that was halted by Sunday’s 11-1 rout at the hands of the Seattle Mariners.

The A’s went 5-4 on the homestand, holding their ground after a heavy dose of injury misfortune, and now the outlook changes just a bit. The focus shifts from the players joining the D.L. to those that could soon return to provide a boost.

Graveman, who has a strained right shoulder, is scheduled to throw off the mound Monday. If that goes well, expect him to be activated sometime in the early portion of the upcoming trip. Sonny Gray, who has been out since injuring a side muscle early in Cactus League games, is set to throw Thursday for Triple-A Nashville after an encouraging rehab outing Saturday for Single-A Stockton.

If Gray comes out of Thursday’s start well, look for the 2015 All-Star to join the active roster and pitch sometime against Minnesota in the final series of this road trip. Nothing can be taken for granted until both pitchers actually return healthy, but it’s a promising scenario to possibly add two starters of their caliber as April turns to May.

“I think any time you look up and you’re over .500 and you’ve had a great homestand and you’re missing your best two pitchers, that’s something to be pleased about,” catcher Stephen Vogt said. “Getting Kendall back is huge. And Sonny obviously did great last night, and felt great, which is more important than the results.

“We’re excited to get those two guys back but in the meantime, we’re gonna continue to keep playing the way we are because we’re playing really good baseball and we’ll just keep things rolling.”

It was clear early on Sunday that a five-game winning streak wouldn’t reach six. The Mariners led 2-0 in the third when Andrew Triggs missed location on a 1-0 sinker and Taylor Motter launched a grand slam over the wall in left-center.

Triggs, who excelled at missing the fat part of bats over his first three starts, didn’t have the feel for his cutter Sunday. When he fell behind to Motter, the cutter is normally a pitch he would have gone to had it been working for him.

“I wasn’t commanding well,” he said. “I didn’t wanna go 1-0 to 2-0. I felt better going with the sinker. I got it down, but missed location in and out. In a perfect world, the cutter would have been great to get a groundout.”

But to this point, the A’s rotation has held firm without Gray and with the short-term absence of Graveman. Perhaps the biggest test moving forward is whether an offense that is tied for the American League lead in extra-base hits can continue to produce consistently with Semien’s absence, particularly without anyone having established themselves as the regular leadoff man.

A’s manager Bob Melvin likes what he’s seen from his team in light of the injuries.

“Every game we go out there there’s an expectation to win,” Melvin said, “and when you win multiple games in a row, you get that feeling and it’s a little more significant. So hopefully we can carry that on to the road trip. As a group, we’ve been able to manage these injuries here recently, and once we start getting guys back it’s gonna be a good thing for us.”

Instant Replay: Mariners mash Triggs, A's win streak ends at five

Instant Replay: Mariners mash Triggs, A's win streak ends at five

BOX SCORE

OAKLAND – That pristine ERA wasn’t going to last forever for Andrew Triggs, and it was no secret why things took a wayward turn for the A’s right-hander Sunday.

His command deserted him in the top of the third against Seattle, and that led to a disastrous inning that told the story in an 11-1 loss that halted the A’s five-game winning streak.

Triggs, who hadn’t allowed a single earned run in winning his first three starts of 2017, walked Robinson Cano to load the bases in the third, then issued another free pass to Nelson Cruz that forced in a run and put the Mariners up 2-0. After striking out Daniel Vogelbach, Triggs caught too much plate with a 1-0 pitch and Taylor Motter drilled it for a grand slam that made it 6-0 and put this one out of reach with the way Yovani Gallardo was pitching.

Gallardo (1-2) gave up just four hits over 6 1/3 innings as the Mariners prevented the A’s from completing their first home sweep of a four-game series since July 3-6, 2014, when they took four from Toronto.

Seattle turned it into a rout as Nelson Cruz belted a three-run homer in the seventh off Raul Alcantara, who was left in to eat up innings and surrendered two***more runs in the ninth.

Triggs (3-1), in a season-opening rotation for the first time in his major league career, opened the year by throwing 17 2/3 innings without allowing an earned run. That was the longest such season-opening streak by a starting pitcher in Oakland history. His ERA went from 0.00 to 2.42 with Sunday’s outing.

The A’s (10-9) finished 5-4 on their nine-game homestand that was shortened by one game due to a rainout Easter Sunday.

Starting pitching report

The first batter of the game was a bad omen for Triggs as he hit Jarrod Dyson to put the speedster on base. Dyson stole second and Cano knocked a run-scoring single to right field that quickly brought Triggs’ earned-run streak to an end. The right-hander was charged with six earned runs over 4 2/3 innings. He gave up five hits with four strikeouts and the two walks.

Bullpen report

Daniel Coulombe entered in relief of Triggs in the fifth and provided 1 1/3 scoreless innings. Then Alcantara, who was replaced in the rotation by Jesse Hahn on the last road trip, was left in to soak up three innings to save the bullpen any more wear and tear in a lopsided game. He gave up five runs in three innings and walked two.

At the plate

The A’s, after falling behind early, couldn’t muster anything against Gallardo, who the Mariners acquired in an offseason trade from the Orioles. Their only run came in the seventh, when Ryon Healy led off with a double, moved to third on Trevor Plouffe’s single and scored on Matt Joyce’s sacrifice fly off reliever Tony Zych.

In the field

Neither team committed an error, making it five games in a row that the A’s have gone errorless. Gallardo was aided by an outstanding diving snag by third baseman Mike Freeman in the sixth. Matt Olson, drawing a start in right field for the A’s, made a sliding catch that turned into a double play when Daniel Vogelbach wandered too far off first base.

Attendance

The homestand finale drew 24,165 fans.

Up next

The A’s take Monday off and then begin a nine-game road trip against the Angels on Tuesday. The opener pits Jesse Hahn (1-1, 3.00) against J.C. Ramirez (2-2, 6.46). On Wednesday, it’s Sean Manaea (1-1, 4.43) against Matt Shoemaker (0-1, 4.98). Then Jharel Cotton (2-2, 4.76) matches up against Ricky Nolasco (1-2, 4.76) in Thursday’s finale. All three games begin at 7:05 p.m. and air on NBC Sports California.

Plouffe, A's showing some power potential in the early going

Plouffe, A's showing some power potential in the early going

OAKLAND — The individual honor belonged to Trevor Plouffe on Friday night, and he had the keepsake to prove it.

The ball he hit for career homer No. 100 was safely in his possession following the A’s 3-1 victory over Seattle that extended their winning streak to four.

However, what the A’s are doing as a team in the power department is the big-picture takeaway, after a game in which Oakland mustered just six hits but had Plouffe and Yonder Alonso clear the fence to help provide Sean Manaea his first win of the season.

“I really don’t take a whole lot of stock in personal stats, especially during the year,” Plouffe said. “But 100 is cool. It was nice that it helped us win this game.”

Last year, Khris Davis hit 42 homers and Marcus Semien 27 to lead the A’s. But the team finished 12th in the American League with 169 long balls on the season. That contributed to the A’s finishing dead last in the league in runs, as did a dreadful showing in on-base percentage.

It’s dangerous to put too much trust in April numbers. But their 22 home runs are currently tied for third in the AL, and that’s important for a team that has just one player, Davis, who can be classified as a pure slugger.

“We’ve talked about, when we’re good, and what we feel is good offensively for us, is the length of the lineup,” manager Bob Melvin said. “Multiple guys can hit homers.”

Granted, this doesn’t look like a lineup that will light up the scoreboard. The A’s are going to win more games by 3-2 scores than 9-8. But so far they’ve shown themselves to be a team that can get contributions up and down the order.

One of those players lately is Plouffe, who has homered four times in his past seven games. In his first year with the A’s after signing a one-year deal this winter, Plouffe has had a rough go of it outside of his recent power surge. He’s hitting .222 and has struck out 22 times in 16 games. That includes a three-strikeout game Thursday, though he capped that night with a three-run homer in the A’s 9-6 win.

“I’m definitely not where I want it to be,” he said. “I’m still swinging and missing too much. I’ve been able to put some good swings on the ball. I’m happy I stuck with it. I’ve had some 3 strikeout (games but) gotten some late hits. I’m happy with that because I’m not packing it in and calling it a day. When you’re struggling, it can be easy to give away at-bats.”

Consider Plouffe a key man for the A’s, especially with Semien expected to miss two-plus months with a fractured wrist. The A’s need a group effort in the power department to support Davis, who is tied for the league lead with seven homers. Plouffe, 30, is an eight-year veteran with two 20-plus homer season under his belt. That track record suggests he can be counted on for power — if he stays healthy. He played in just 84 games last year due to injuries to his ribs, oblique and hamstring.

Looking to avoid the disabled list, he put an emphasis on flexibility last winter.

“That was a major part of my offseason, was making sure I corrected a lot of things that plagued me last year,” Plouffe said.

On Friday night, he got to celebrate the A’s fourth straight victory as well as his own milestone homer.

“It’s a nice round number,” Plouffe said. “Ninety-nine looks cool, but 100 looks better.”