OAKLAND -- The A's have used a dozen starting pitchers so far this season, and they'll trot out a couple more this week when Raul Alcantara and Jharel Cotton come up from the minors to make their major league debuts.
But Kendall Graveman, the last man currently standing from the A's original rotation back in April, not only is still standing but shining. On Sunday, he shut down a Boston lineup that had absolutely pummeled Oakland pitching this year and then got the last laugh on a Red Sox pitcher who took a no-hitter into the eighth inning.
Marcus Semien broke up lefthander Eduardo Rodriguez's no-hit bid with an infield single with two out in the eighth, and Khris Davis' double in the bottom of the ninth gave the A's a 1-0 walk-off win at the Coliseum when the hit was bobbled in left field.
But Graveman was the true stalwart on a day when the A's were in desperate need of a hero, particularly one on the mound against the torrid Red Sox. Graveman threw 6 1/3 innings of shutout ball and struck out seven after Boston scored 27 runs in the first two games of the three-game series and an astonishing 67 runs in five meetings this season.
"Kendall's our ace right now," said Semien. "He gives us a chance every time. He's keeping the ball down, and he's touching 96-97 (mph), which is amazing with that movement."
Graveman said his performance was a function of a lot more than just stuff, though.
"I studied their lineup a lot this week," he said. "The plan of attack was just to mix pitches. We threw the breaking ball more, we threw the changeup more and we threw the sinker to both sides of the plate once again, and I think that's what you have to do against a team that's hitting .280 as a group."
Graveman also got himself out of a major jam that wasn't completely of his own making. After a leadoff walk to David Ortiz followed by a Mookie Betts single in the fourth, the right-hander got one out on a Hanley Ramirez fly to center. But on a grounder to first base by Sandy Leon, Semien missed touching second base on what should have been a force. Betts was originally ruled out, but after a review, he was called safe, and suddenly Boston had the bases loaded with just one out.
But Graveman got out of it, retiring Brock Holt on a liner to short and rookie Yoan Moncada on a grounder to first.
"We had a potential double play, and all of a sudden it's bases loaded with one out, but Kendall gets out of it," said manager Bob Melvin. "That right there was the key to the game."
Graveman's influence was even felt off the field. Earlier in the game, Davis had gotten into a beef with home plate umpire Brian Knight after being called out on strikes, and he continued chirping at him from the dugout. Davis revealed that Graveman came over and told him to chill out.
"I was a little frustrated with the umpire, and he showed some leadership by letting me know that he needed me out there," Davis said. "It was a good feeling to have him do that, and it showed up later in the game. I give him the credit. He was right. He called it."
Excellent relief work by Ryan Dull and Ryan Madson kept the game scoreless. Davis had gone 0 for 3 with two strikeouts when he came to the plate in the ninth after Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel had walked leadoff man Danny Valencia. Davis drove Kimbrel's first pitch past left fielder Holt, and when Holt subsequently bobbled the ball for an error, third base coach Ron Washington waved Valencia home with the run that ended the A's five-game losing streak and Boston's season-long dominance of them.
"I definitely wanted to jump (Kimbrel) early because he'd just walked Danny, and I know he was just trying to get ahead, so I didn't want to miss the first one," Davis said.
It was only the fifth time the Red Sox have been shut out this season, and it was a painful one, considering Rodriguez's performance. The only baserunners he allowed through the first 7 2/3 innings were walks to Valencia and Brett Eibner. He also hit Jake Smolinski with a pitch. When he got two easy groundouts to start the bottom of the eighth, the no-hit prospects looked good.
But Semien hit a sharp comebacker to the mound that hit Rodriguez in the foot and caromed behind him. He had trouble locating the ball and finally threw to first baseman Ramirez. Semien was called out by first base umpire Laz Diaz, but the A's immediately appealed. It took only 19 seconds to reverse the call, and the no-hitter was done.