Griffin strikes out panic and 8 A’s, too
“A guy that throws what he intends to throw, that’s the definition of a good pitcher.”
The Texas Rangers needed A.J. Griffin to be amazing on Monday night, and did he ever come through.
Griffin pitched perhaps his best game in a Ranger uniform and the Rangers played a near-perfect ball game, putting a halt to their 3-game losing skid.
It was an enjoyable experience watching the Rangers play Monday for so many reasons. Bringing in runners in scoring position has been a problem for the Rangers this year. Monday night, problem solved. Building on early leads has been a thorn in the Rangers side all year. Monday night, that was not the case. Pitching well with a lead has been a problem all year long and yet Monday night it wasn’t.
You can’t right all the wrongs from a wretched start in one night, but the Rangers sure did try.
Pitching: A.J. Griffin KKKKKKKKicked things off for the Rangers and dominated. Claudio, Jeffress, and Kela brought it home.
- In Griffin’s first start against the Athletics this year he gave up 4 earned runs in just 3.1 innings pitched. Griffin struggled with his command (2 walks) and compounded those mistakes by allowing 2 home runs. Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of this start was the fact that he was staked to an 8-0 lead and couldn’t get out of the 4th Griffin is never going to overpower anyone. He has to rely on location, speed differential and the defense behind him in order to be successful. While he felt good after his first start, Griffin was frustrated that his two biggest weaknesses were what hurt him saying, “The walk and the hit batter that’s what I am most frustrated about. The first 3 runs they scored were on 1 hit and it’s not good when that happens.”
The two biggest weaknesses Griffin was referring to was his lack of control leading to walks, and his tendency to give up home runs.
On Monday, Griffin’s approach changed drastically as he used his curveball earlier in the game and was able to establish it as a plus pitch for the evening. In addition to having a strong curve, Griffin threw first-pitch strikes to 15 out of 19 batters and went to two strikes on 15 out of 19 batters as well. This superior control resulted in a line that looked like this: 6 innings pitched 1 hit, 8 strike-outs, 1 walk and a strike/walk ratio of 2-1.
Griffin, like his first start, was staked to a lead; unlike his first start, he made it hold up. When asked about his ability to throw the first pitch strike, Griffin said, “You got out there and try to do that every single time. You don’t want to go out there and fall behind guys but like I was saying earlier, just being able to pour that curveball in there first pitch just sets up anything that I want to do the rest of the at-bat. They have to be ready for pretty much any pitch I throw the rest of the at-bat.”
Griffin couldn’t have summed things up much better. When his curveball dominates like it did Monday night, he can dominate a team. Per Mr. Koufax to start off our article, Griffin was the “definition of a good pitcher” on Monday night and it’s hard to argue otherwise.
- Griffin was pulled after 6 innings having thrown just 91 pitches, yet this was a move that made sense given Griffin’s history facing line-ups for the third time. Alex Claudio, Jeremy Jeffress and Keone Kela all did their jobs closing out Griffin’s shut-out with the only blip being a second and third situation that Claudio created in the 8th before Jeffress came and put out the fire. It was good to see Kela perform well as he threw just 10 pitches (8 strikes) with one strike-out while retiring the side in order.
Hitting: Tone-setting at-bats and getting the big hit at the right time.
Carlos Gomez led off the game with a 10 pitch at-bat that resulted in a hard hit single to left field. This was followed by an infield hit and a run scoring double. Just like that the Rangers had a 1-0 lead and a chance to blow it open early. With 2 runners in scoring position, the next three batters went down meekly and a huge early opportunity was lost.
This very well could have been the story of the night: “Failure to capitalize early leads to another heartbreaking loss.” The Rangers had other plans, however, and didn’t let their next opportunity pass by.
In the top of the 5th inning after two walks and a sacrifice, Carlos Gomez lined a 2-run double into the right center field gap; it may have just been the location of the field mikes, but on TV at home, it sounded like a true rifle shot. Three batters later after a Nomar Mazara intentional walk and stolen base (the first of his career), Mike Napoli joined the fun and hit a double down the left field line that was just fair, driving in 2 more big runs.
The Rangers finally capitalized on opportunities and built a lead, but they didn’t take the foot off the gas. In of the 9th inning, again after two walks, Nomar Mazara singled through a drawn-in infield, driving in two more runs and, essentially, putting the game on ice.
Notable Individual performances:
- Shin Soo Choo was our offensive player to watch heading into this series. We talked about his need to get on base and score runs. Well Choo responded by drawing 3 walks and scoring a run. He was on the base paths all night and it led to good things for the Rangers.
- Nomar Mazara knocked in 3 more runs last night and now leads the American League with 16 RBIs over all.
Jeff Banister spoke on Griffin’s pace and how it affected the team both offensively and defensively.
“When you can get our guys back into the dugout and they’re not spending a lot of time on the dirt, you can kind of keep that rhythm going offensively. Defensively, it’s proven that, look, when we can keep a good rhythm good tempo, guys aren’t standing on their legs out there. They are a lot sharper. They get better breaks on the ball and they are obviously more focused.”
Tuesday night the Rangers are back at it with Yu Darvish on the mound. Darvish has historically struggled against the A’s and has really struggled at O.co Coliseum. Darvish, however, is coming off a masterful 7-inning outing and will need to replicate that in order to keep the Rangers on track.