Update 1: Two Weeks of A’s Baseball in the Books (April 3 – April 16)

I’ll be doing two-week updates for the A’s throughout their 162-game season from here on out.

Record: 5-7 (5-7 past 2 weeks)

Oakland took on the Angels for their first three games of the year. For Opening Day, A’s starting pitcher Kendall Graveman powered through the Angel lineup to give the A’s their first W of the year behind two Khris Davis homeruns (4-2). In game two, Ryan Dull and the Athletics suffered a bullpen malfunction to put them to 1-1 on the year following a 7-6 loss. Hopefully not a sign of more to come. The Angels and A’s would end up splitting the series two games a piece, the other Oakland win coming from an unexpected stellar performance form Andrew Triggs.

The Rangers were the next AL West opponent to face the A’s. With faulty outings from rookies Jharel Cotton and Sean Manea, the Rangers would take two out of three games from the A’s. The other? Kendall Graveman pitched his heart out for seven innings, losing a no-hit bid in the 7th, giving the A’s their third win.

Further east, we go to Kansas City, Missouri for three games. Cotton had a bounce-back start, striking out six batters in seven innings to earn his first win of 2017 with help from a two-run bomb from none other than left fielder Khris Davis. Triggs twirled another gem in game two, shutting out the Royals’ bats for six innings. Triggs was helped by quite the offensive showing from his teammates including three RBIs from second baseman Jed Lowrie and a couple of hits from Rajai Davis for a 8-3 win. The A’s were later dominated in game three by Jason Vargas, losing 3-1 but took two out of three.

In game one, Kendall Graveman took the mound for what was a three-game series against Houston Astros. After blanking the ‘Stros for five innings, Graveman was forced to leave the game after “never really getting warmed up” according to Manager Bob Melvin. Plouffe’s two throwing errors and the A’s bullpen allowing 5 runs helped the Astros to a 7-2 win. Manaea went 5 innings, not allowing a hit but ran into trouble de to the amount of runners he put on base. The Oakland bullpen was never able to bail him out. Astros win 10-6. Game 3 was postponed to September 9th due to a rainout.

The A’s should be 7-5 right now but first let’s look at some bright spots that Manager Bob Melvin has had so far this young season.

Bright Spots:

Khris Davis: Emphasis on the second and third letters of his name. Davis picked up right where he left off from last season and has gotten off to an even better start than his 2016 campaign. Four players are currently tied for first in homeruns (6) and Davis is one of them. Two of which came on Opening Day on ESPN. Khris Davis leads the A’s in all major hitting statistics which includes a .340 batting average.

Kendall Graveman: Despite leaving his last outing in the 5th inning with some forearm discomfort, Graveman has lived up to expectations and much more. With Sonny Gray going down on the DL, someone had to fill in for the number one spot and be the team ace and boy-oh-boy did Kendall step up. On Opening Day Kendall showcased a lot, allowing only two earned runs over 6 innings, the runs coming off the bat of a Mike Trout 2-run bomb. Graveman would earn the win and take that into his next start against the Rangers. The only blemish on the stat sheet in Arlington came in the 7th inning which would be a solo homer which was also the first hit allowed in the game by Graveman. What’s impressed me about Kendall has been how much his velocity has improved from 2016. I remember watching him have a solid 92-94 mph fastball, occasionally hitting 95 but now he’s really pumping it in there, touching 98 at times and averaging 95-96. Graveman has an ERA of 2.00 and has struck out 12 in 18 innings. Keep it up buddy.

Jharel Cotton: So far in the battle of rookies Cotton has clearly taken the upper-hand. After his rough first outing of 2017, Cotton bounced back against the Royals and showed he is here to stay. Cotton blanked KC for seven innings, sending six batters back to the pine shaking their heads, getting his first win of the season in the process.

Sonny Gray: How great is this? Melvin earlier this week announced that they expect Gray to be back by the end of April, the very worst being May 1. On April 13 Gray threw a bullpen of 45-50 pitches and will be making his first Minor League Rehab Assignment soon. By the time he enters back into the rotation, he’ll be built up to throw at least 90 pitches.

Mark Mulder: So former member of the original “Big 3”, Mark Mulder is now in the booth with Glen Kuiper on Fosse’s many off days. Great move by NBC Sports California to get Shooty Babbit out of there. Mulder has offered some excellent pitching insight while not overstepping the air-time boundary of a color commentator.

Negatives:

Sean Manaea: Manaea’s problem has been his ability to locate his pitches. In his last outing against the Houston Astros, Manaea covered up the fact that he walked five batters by no-hitting them through five innings. Three of those walks coming in the 6th. Manaea currently has a 5.51 ERA and will look to knock that down against the Seattle Mariners next week.

Ryan Dull: Although Dull was not aided by Manaea walking the bases loaded in the 6th, you could say he is the reason why the A’s don’t have two more wins under their belt. Dull suffered a heartbreaker after giving up a three-run homer to Angels second baseman Danny Espinosa after the A’s lineup had already fought its way back to take the lead. Hopefully Dull will be returning to 2016 form sometime soon…

Ryon Healy: Healy hasn’t looked all that sharp through mid-April either. After getting his feathers ruffled by a high and inside heater from Kansas City starter Jason Vargas, Healy was sent down on strikes twice. This sparked an unfortunate trend for Healy, striking out twice or three times over the next couple of games. A.J. Griffin will be 60 feet 6 inches away from Healy who takes a .170 batting average into game one of a three-game series with the Texas Rangers. Find your groove Healy, find your groove.

Marcus Semien: Although not doing much more than Healy, shortstop Marcus Semien suffered a right wrist contusion and is now on the 10-day disabled list. Semien however did do his job by getting on base, currently second in the AL in walks. A fundamental piece of our infield will be replaced part time by Triple-A Nashville call-up Chad Pinder. In Spring Training Pinder was nothing special but he did make his MLB debut last season, ending the season with a .235 average in 22 games. The 25-year-old Pinder was sporting a .324 batting average in nine games with Nashville. Let’s see this trend continue. This is a good chance to see what Oakland has grooming in its farm system.

The Bullpen: Saturday’s game against the Astros was not pretty for anyone down the third base line. Liam Hendriks, Sean Doolittle, Frankie Montas and Santiago Casillas all gave up two earned runs each en route to the 10-6 Oakland loss to Houston. I think Casillas still has a bad taste in his mouth from his 2016 September. It’d be huge for him to put his best foot forward to put those negative memories behind him. The Athletics’ bullpen posts a 4.31 ERA.

Other Notable Highlights:

Jaff Decker made his 2017 debut, donning the green and gold for the first time. Decker worked hard all Spring Training and got the call up just a week and a half into the season to fulfill for the slumping and erroneous Mark Canha. Decker took advantage of the opportunity by delivering a three-hit day which included a triple, RBI and stolen base. Hopefully Decker will become a platoon fixture for Melvin.

Next Up:

The A’s will make up their rainout on September 9 in a double header. Oakland will be continung its 10-game home stand against the Texas Rangers and Seattle Mariners over the next couple of weeks.

24 games in the month of April have been or will be against AL West opponents which serves as a great opportunity for Oakland to get out in front of its divisional rivals early. Let’s see Oakland take advantage and at least go .500 over this stretch.

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