Bay Area Baseball

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June 15, 2013
Griffin 'at a loss for words' after loss; King Felix stifles the A's

OAKLAND -- You could call A.J. Griffin one of the more free-wheeling personas in the A's clubhouse. He has been heard playing the guitar before games on days he starts. He speaks three languages. But after the A's 4-0 loss to the Mariners on Saturday, standing at his locker, Griffin admitted: "I'm kind of at a loss for words."

There wasn't much for to explain after a game that turned on one pitch, or at least a few pitches in one inning. The big one was a first-pitch fastball inside to 41-year-old Mariners catcher Henry Blanco -- signed by Seattle yesterday -- that Blanco crushed for his second career grand slam and first since May 2000, when Griffin was 12 years old.

With Felix Hernandez playing the part of what former Mariner and now A's catcher John Jaso termed "Boring Felix" -- an act the A's know all too well -- it was all Seattle needed to ensure Oakland its first series loss since May 13-15 against the Texas Rangers.

Griffin said he threw the fastball to Blanco, with the bases loaded and one out in the sixth inning, "just trying to get weak contact, and Henry was looking for a well-placed fastball and hit it and it went out." The pitch appeared to catch a fair amount of the inside corner, but Griffin said that was basically where he wanted it.

"If you look at the video I hit (catcher John Jaso) right where he set up," Griffin said. "It's just one of those ones where you've just got to tip your cap to him. I'm sick of saying that, but that's how it goes."

Jaso agreed the pitch was where he had called for it, and added: "I'd still attack him the exact same way."

Griffin wasn't entirely blameless in allowing the inning to build. He allowed a one-out double to Michael Morse that put runners on second and third, then fell behind Michael Saunders -- who began the day hitting .199 -- in a three-ball count and intentionally put him on to set up the double play.

Blanco had hit .184 in 15 games with Toronto this season before joining the Mariners. It was his first hit with Seattle, and the RBIs were his first of the season. Before the inning, Griffin had allowed six baserunners but pitched out of trouble and appeared to have good command of his changeup in particular.

"A game like that where you've got two good pitchers going and both of them have their stuff, it is going to be one of those games where one swing is the difference," Jaso said.

* Hernandez's career success against the A's is well-documented, and is the subject of tomorrow's print story. But here are a few updated numbers:

The Mariners ace has now thrown 14 2/3 innings against the A's this season and allowed no runs and eight hits while striking out 16. He improved to 15-6 with a 2.60 ERA in 28 career starts against the A's, including 8-2 with a 2.64 ERA in 16 starts at the Coliseum.

Saturday was the seventh of his 28 career games against the A's in which he pitched at least seven innings without allowing a run. The closest the A's came in this one was in the fifth, when Jed Lowrie was thrown out at home trying to score on a shallow fly ball to right-center.

"You've got to take a chance with Felix there," manager Bob Melvin said. "I mean, that was our only opportunity to score a run right there."

Lowrie agreed he needed to go under the circumstances, even though it "wasn't that deep of a fly ball." Chavez had time to set himself and make a strong one-hop throw to Blanco, who tagged Lowrie as he slid by.

Melvin pointed out before the game that there's more than one way to beat a good starter, including getting his pitch count up to take him out of a game early. The A's did a good job of that early, making Hernandez throw 42 pitches through the first two innings, even though he recorded five strikeouts.

"We were on our way," Melvin said. "The first three innings we got his pitch count up some. But then he got back into it and pitched well."

* The A's had their normal lineup back for the most part, with Coco Crisp and Josh Donaldson back from injuries. Crisp went 2-for-4 but appeared to be favoring his right foot some while running the bases in the ninth inning. Melvin said he didn't know of anything particularly bothering Crisp, who missed several games with heel soreness.

Donaldson went hitless in four at-bats, though he battled Hernandez for nine pitches in the seventh inning with two on and nobody out before striking out on a changeup. The MLB.com pitch tracker actually registered the pitch as a fastball despite its obvious and sharp downward movement -- because it came in at 90 mph.

* Jaso had his career-high nine-game hitting streak end. A reporter afterward asked Jaso if there's a key to hitting Hernandez. His response: "I don't know. I didn't hit him."

* After these two teams combined for a total of nine runs through the first two games of the series, is it too much to say the weekend's best pitching matchup happens tomorrow? That's when Bartolo Colon (8-2, 2.92 ERA) faced Mariners right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma, who is 7-1 and has the second-lowest ERA in the A.L. at 1.79.

A tough series for the hitters wraps up tomorrow with first pitch at 1:05 p.m.

-- Matt Kawahara

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About Bay Area Baseball

Matt KawaharaMatt Kawahara was born in Sacramento and attended McClatchy High School and UC Berkeley, where he wrote for the independent student paper The Daily Californian. He graduated from Cal in 2010 and started at The Sacramento Bee as a summer intern. He joined The Bee’s sports staff in fall 2011.
Email: mkawahara@sacbee.com.
Phone: (916) 321-1015.
On Twitter: @matthewkawahara.

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