Long Ball Troubles Continue To Bite Oakland Athletics' A.J. Griffin

By Thom Tsang
Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

For the most part of the Oakland Athletics‘ 7-3 loss to the Baltimore Orioles on Saturday, A.J. Griffin pitched an absolute gem.

No, really, he did.

The righty allowed just a pair of hits, no runs, no walks, plus five strikeouts through six innings of wo … wait, what’s that? I can’t just cut out the one bad inning from the analysis?

Well, I tried. Here’s the thing: you could either look at this start from Griffin being as largely dominant, which would be true, or you can focus on the one inning where the wheels fell off spectacularly and cost both him and the A’s the game.

It’s hard to focus on the good when the bad is so pronounced, I suppose.

In this case, it was the fourth inning, and it really started with the long ball. Two of them, to be exact, coming off the bats of Nick Markakis and Adam Jones consecutively. By the time Griffin had a chance to recover (which he did through the next three frames), the shell-shocked hurler had thrown 35 pitches and saw his 2-0 lead turn into a 4-2 deficit, something that the A’s couldn’t recover from.

The most alarming thing isn’t just the fact that the 25-year old had a bad inning, but rather that it’s something that the A’s have seen before.

Very recently, too. In fact, this is the second game in a row that Griffin has allowed two home runs in a start, and naturally, both have led to losses for the right-hander.

The difference is, though, where he was being squared up his last time out (42.1 percent line drive rate), batters actually did not hit him particularly well on Saturday (5.9 percent, lowest in five starts in 2013). The sophomore did allow fly balls at a higher rate than usual (58.8 percent, season-high), but that 20 percent went out for home runs does not suggest a trend here.

Instead, it’s likely the fact that Orioles pitchers were being more patient with him (18.8 percent swings at outside pitches, season-low) that is one of the culprits of the three-hit, two-walk disaster fourth.

The good news for the A’s, though, is that Griffin did a good job of bouncing over the next three innings and not letting the four-run inning affect him too much. Unlike his last two-homer outing, this was more a blip on the radar rather than a prolonged struggle.

Still, he’s going to have to keep the ball in the park if he wants to get back to his winning ways, because not even the A’s league-leading offense is going to be able to bail him out if his 1.45 HR/9 rate continues spiking.

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