Griffin: 'Bob gave me a boost of confidence'
A.J. Griffin threw 72 pitches in the first three innings, and 34 over his final three frames. (AP IMAGES)
OAKLAND -- A.J. Griffin looked lost on the mound for the first three innings of the game against the Astros. Having already allowed a career-high four walks, including a span of nine consecutive balls, the Astros had the bases loaded with two outs, two runs on the board, and the A's staring pitcher on the ropes.
Then all of a sudden everything changed.
Griffin threw a four-seam fastball that Astros' right fielder Rick Ankiel ripped down the first base line. It had the makings of a bases clearing double until A's first baseman Shane Peterson ranged left and made a headfirst diving catch that stopped the ball and the scoring opportunity in it's tracks.
In Peterson's first ever big league game, he single-handedly seized the Astros momentum and gave it back to the A's.
"He hit it pretty hard," said Peterson, who only started one game at first base in Triple-A Sacramento before being recalled on Tuesday. "I didn't think much about it, which probably made it better at the time."
Griffin looked like a different pitcher after that play. He ended up retiring the final 11 batters he faced and lasted six innings. Griffin threw 72 pitches in the first three innings, and 34 over the final three frames. The fact he made it through the sixth inning was huge for A's manager Bob Melvin, who was working with a short bullpen on Tuesday.
"I don't know that I've been more proud of him than today," Melvin said. "One thing you can count on with him is his command all of the time and he was really fighting himself."
"All of a sudden he gives us six innings that we needed," Melvin added.
It's safe to say that if Peterson doesn't make that catch, Griffin may not have made it much further. While Griffin's mind was made up that Peterson was the hero of the game, he also pointed out that Melvin deserved the assist.
After that long third inning, the A's skipper offered Griffin some well-placed encouragement in the dugout.
"For him to approach me and get me back in a good frame of mind, that's huge," Griffin said. "It speaks volumes to the type of manager and man he is."
The Oakland Athletics lead the American League with 11 wins. In their case it is truly a team effort. Over the course of their 4-3 win over the Houston Astros it became increasingly difficult to decide who the true hero of the game was. Sure, it seemed like the obvious answer is Peterson, but even after Griffin bounced back it was still a one-run game.
The Astros ended up tying the game in the eighth inning when former Athletic Carlos Pena hit a home run off Sean Doolittle. As it turned out, there were more heroics to be had.
In the bottom half of the inning, Josh Reddick drew his second walk of the game and Josh Donaldson followed with a go-ahead triple that proved to be the game-winning hit. The ball that Donaldson hit to the opposite field landed just outside of Ankiel's outstretched glove and within inches of the foul line.
Donaldson was visibly frustrated in his first two at-bats when he struck out looking. That ended up playing a factor in his final at-bat.
"It was just one of those nights where they kept pounding me fastballs away and they kept getting the calls," Donaldson said. "Once it got to two strikes it was one of those things where I was saying 'they're not going to beat me on a fastball away.'"
"I was fortunate enough to sneak it down the line and help the team win," Donaldson added.
Game winning hit. Hero, right? Donaldson certainly made a strong case.
Eric Sogard went 3 for 3 and finished his day a home run shy of the cycle. He scored the game-trying run in the fifth inning when Coco Crisp drove him in with a triple. Either of them could be considered the hero of the game as well.
Fortunately, baseball isn't an individual sport. The A's are proving that it takes every player on the roster to win. It doesn't matter who the hero of the game is. All that matters is the end result.