How do you follow an eight-inning, one-run domination of the big, bad Los Angeles Angels, high-priced sluggers and all?
Well, if you’re the Oakland Athletics‘ A.J. Griffin, you do it by showing off your stuff in another solid performance against another AL West divisional rival … albeit one without neither the payroll nor the status and expectations of the Angels.
I’m referring to the Houston Astros, the latest team to be stymied by Griffin this season.
Though the young righty wasn’t quite in the dominant form on Tuesday (the narrative would probably say he’s playing to his opponent’s level? … nah), he did bring another facet of his game that hadn’t really been seen too much in his other pair of 2013 starts: the strikeouts.
Now, it’s not as though the soft-tossing Griffin isn’t capable of inducing whiffs. The 25-year-old did post a 7.0 K/9 through his 82.1 innings in 2012 with a 8.7 percent swinging strike rate, so the sophomore knows how to get one by once in a while, even if he’s not exactly what you’d call a strikeout artist.
The Astros apparently didn’t get the memo on that, though, as eight of them went down on strikes against Griffin, with six of them coming on the swinging variety.
So yeah, I guess you could say that the right-hander had his stuff working on this night. That said, the outing wasn’t without its blemishes, as Griffin needed 106 pitches to get through six innings of work, and he did walk a career-high four batters, running into trouble early in the game with his control.
That culminated in the third inning, when all four of his hits allowed came in the same frame as the A’s hurler gave up an early two-run lead.
It was after that, though, the Griffin seemed to find a second gear, retiring the next nine batters he saw in order, and going out in style — with three swinging Ks to close the sixth before being taken out of the game and eventually taking a no-decision.
Sure, it probably would have been nice for him to get his third win of the season (which he was in line for), but there are definitely more positives to take home from this start than negatives, and Griffin has now contributed significantly to the A’s AL West-leading 11-4 record.
With arms like Jarrod Parker scuffling early, these kinds of difference-making outings from the team’s No. 4 starter can’t be understated, even if it is early in the season.