Melvin on Griffin: 'I don't know that I've been more proud of him'
Eric Sogard hit a one-out double and scored when Coco Crisp extended his hitting streak to 11 games. (USA TODAY IMAGES)
OAKLAND -- It happened many times over the course of the Oakland Athletics improbable run of 2012. One spectacular defensive play would spark the entire team and lead to a comeback victory -- many times in walk-off fashion. While Tuesday's game may have lacked the drama of a late September battle, the script was the same for the A's.
Oakland was down 2-0 early. Their pitcher was reeling. Then a guy making his big league debut made a headfirst diving play that turned the entire game around.
The A's won 4-3, their fifth win in a row over Houston. Oakland's 11 wins are the most by any team in the American League.
Starting Pitching Report
A.J. Griffin struggled mightily with his command early. The big right-handed pitcher typically has pinpoint control, but he walked a career-high four batters in the first three innings. In his first two starts combined, he only walked three batters.
Griffin threw nine consecutive balls to start the second inning. He managed to pitch out of trouble with runners on first and second and no outs. In the third inning, his struggles continued. He allowed two runs and three consecutive hits to start the frame. Justin Maxwell and Chris Carter each drove in a run with a single. Griffin's fifth walk loaded the bases, but Shane Peterson, in his A's debut, made a spectacular diving catch to end the inning.
After Peterson's play, something changed in Griffin. He retired the final 11 batters he faced in the game. He retired the side in order in the fourth and fifth innings on 21 pitches after throwing 72 pitches in the first three innings. He finished his night by striking out the side in the sixth inning.
Griffin's final line was respectable. He allowed two runs on four hits and four walks over six innings. He struck out eight batters and threw 106 pitches.
Ryan Cook pitched a scoreless seventh inning. He allowed a two-out double to Jose Altuve, but that was all.
Sean Doolittle entered in the eighth inning. He allowed a solo home run to Carlos Pena that tied the game at three. It was Pena's first home run of the season.
Grant Balfour locked down the ninth for his second save.
At the Plate
There's manufacturing runs, and then there's what the A's did in the fourth inning against the Astros. Chris Young reached base on a single. He stole second base with a jump so big that he was half way to second before Brad Peacock threw the ball. Josh Reddick drew a walk and then he and Young executed a double steal. Moments later, Young scored on a wild pitch.
The A's took the lead in the fifth inning. Eric Sogard hit a one-out double and scored when Coco Crisp extended his hitting streak to 11 games with a triple that hit the high part of the fence in right. John Jaso followed with a walk and the A's took a 3-2 lead on Seth Smith RBI single.
The A's had to take back the lead in the eighth inning. Reddick reached base on a walk and scored when Josh Donaldson hit a two-out triple that landed just fair in right field. The managed to land within inches of the foul line and just outside the outstretched glove of a diving Rick Ankiel.
The three triples for the A's on Tuesday tied an Oakland record. They have accomplished the feat seven times, and the last time it happened was August 3, 2002.
Sogard finished the day 3 for 3 and a home run shy of the cycle.
In the Field
Peterson made the play of the game in his big league debut. With the bases loaded and Griffin laboring, he made a reactionary play that saved multiple runs from scoring. Peterson made a headfirst dive to his left, snatching a line drive out of the air to end the inning.
The A's announced an attendance of 11,038.
Gold won the dot race. All three dots were even heading into the finish line until White and Green collided.
The A's will be sending Bartolo Colon (1-0, 4.15 ERA) to the mound seeking a series sweep. He will be opposed by Bud Norris (2-1, 1.96 ERA). Colon out-dueled Norris on April 6 in Houston.