ANAHEIM – A.J. Griffin’s consistency can fall through the cracks when it comes to recognition among Oakland A’s starting pitchers.
His individual performances don’t always make you sit up and take notice, but his season-long numbers certainly should.
Griffin reached the 200-inning mark in the A’s 3-0 defeat to the Los Angeles Angels on Tuesday night. That’s impressive territory for a second-year pitcher, and there’s a decent chance he’ll be the only Athletic to crack that barrier before the regular season ends.
“That’s a milestone you’re shooting for every year,” Griffin said. “To be able to get there is pretty satisfying. But I wish the outcome today would have been different.”
Griffin gave up three runs on five hits Tuesday and was lifted after five innings and 95 pitches. Had the A’s mustered even a slight portion of the offense they’d generated in recent games, Griffin might have ended up with his 15th victory.
But the hotter topic involving Griffin right now is whether he belongs in Oakland’s postseason rotation.
His durability, his 14-10 record and his 3.83 ERA are his leading credentials. What hurts are the homers.
He served up his major league-leading 36th long ball to Howie Kendrick in the second inning. It was also his 21st on the road, which also leads the majors. And considering his first postseason start assuredly would come on the road if the A’s hold their seeding position, a degree of concern among the Oakland faithful is justifiable.
A’s catcher Derek Norris does not share those concerns. The bright side of Griffin’s penchant for dingers is that 25 of his 36 homers have been solo shots. Norris anticipated the home run questions when reporters gathered around him after the game.
“I’m gonna go ahead and beat you to the punch and say I really don’t care how (a team scores a run),” Norris said. “It could be a one-run single or a solo home run. I don’t care, it’s one run. That’s not gonna hurt us.”
A’s manager Bob Melvin remains silent on who his four playoff starters will be, but his postgame comments about Griffin certainly supported the speculation that Griffin will be part of the rotation.
Melvin was asked if a homer-prone pitcher was a concern looking ahead to planning for the American League Divisional Series.
“I don’t think that really plays into it,” Melvin said. “He gives up some home runs. Iv’e been around a lot of pitchers that give up some home runs. He gives up solo jobs. His ERA is still pretty manageable for what he does. If he’s giving up doubles that are driving in runs or solo homers, I don’t think it really makes a difference.”
Griffin showed his ability to minimize damage Tuesday. After Josh Hamilton’s third-inning bloop single scored two to give the Angels a 3-0 lead, Griffin fell behind 3-0 to Mark Trumbo but struck him out to strand runners on the corners.
In the fifth, he put two runners on with one out but struck out Mike Trout looking and retired Hamilton on a fly out.
“He didn’t pitch bad,” Melvin said. “… Usually in a game like that, you’re keeping (your team) team in the game unless you get shut out.”
Bartolo Colon and Jarrod Parker are locks for the playoff rotation, and rookie Sonny Gray could have a spot nailed down too. That would leave Griffin and Dan Straily battling for the final spot. Straily takes the mound in Wednesday’s series finale looking to state his final case. He’s pitched quite well of late himself.
Griffin has built his playoff resume over a season’s worth of time. The 25-year-old claims he’s not dwelling on the decision.
“You don’t really get to choose when you pitch,” he said. “Just being able to start a major league baseball game is a blessing. I just wanna start as many of them as I can for as long as I can.”