GAME 15 WRAPUP: Griffin provides a compass for Parker in turning around horrific start

@stewardsfolly in for John Hickey …

We pretty well covered Shane Peterson’s eventful first day in the major leagues in the pre-game notes below and the game story here: http://bit.ly/Zq1bce. So we’re reserving a short postgame blog — day game Wednesday, so we all gotta go to bed — for A.J. Griffin’s dramatic turnaround Tuesday night against Houston.

We tend to forget with as much success as the young A’s starters had last year that they’re still learning on the job, and Griffin offered a case in point Tuesday night against Houston. The right-hander got off to a horrible start and appeared headed for a dismal loss when he walked a career-high four guys in the first three innings, fell behind 2-0 and was very much on the ropes with the bases loaded until Peterson’s diving play saved him from a pummeling.

But with that play, something clicked inside Griffin even though he’d already thrown 70 pitches through three. He turned it around and wound up pitching six full, retiring the last 11 Astros he faced and striking out the side in the sixth. What the heck happened?

“Early on, I was just really trying to keep the ball down and I was yanking the ball a little bit rather than being just nice and smooth with my lanes to the target,” Griffin said. “Bob (Melvin) came up after the third inning and said, `You’re good, man, just do what makes you good and go after guys.’ That little boost of confidence just helped me go out and attack the zone more. I just kind of turned the page right there.”

Pitchers of all ages sometimes have to make some mental and mechanical mid-game, but it’s sometimes tougher for younger pitchers. Jarrod Parker, to be sure, is going through some struggles right now that belie his talent. He’s digging holes he can’t climb out of, but if he was watching Griffin on this night, perhaps he learned something.

“As a whole, I feel pretty good (about the turnaround),” Griffin said. “I made some adjustments and started going after guys the way I know I can. But those first three innings, it was kind of weird. I was trying to do too much instead of trusting my stuff. I was like, wow, I threw nine balls in a row to start that inning. That’s not me. But Bob coming up to me like that and showing his confidence in me and get me in the right frame of mind, that’s huge, and it speaks volumes to the type of manager and man he is.”

Said Melvin of Griffin’s reversal of misfortune, “You know, I don’t know that I’ve been more proud of him than I am today. The one thing you can always count on with him is his command all the time, and you could see he was really fighting himself. After the third, he just decided, `You know what, I’m starting over, I’m going to make my pitches, and I’m going be confident, and I’m not going to get ahead of myself,’ and all of a sudden, he gave us six innings that we needed. It was quite a turnaround for an outing that we really hadn’t seen out of him before.”

Melvin never got anybody up in the bullpen as Griffin labored, and wasn’t about to.

“I didn’t have enough to cover today,” he said. “Sometimes the starter has to give you some innings, and I had confidence that he was going to turn it around. But it was going to be very difficult with a couple of guys I didn’t have available today to finish that game, especially being behind. Sometimes a starter  just has to wear it or figure it out, and he figured it out.”

Again, what Griffin did is a lesson for Parker as he tries to find himself after being the A’s best rookie starter a year ago. So maybe Griffin did more than just straighten himself out on this night. He provided a compass for a teammate.

Nice night for Eric Sogard, who’s really starting to look for an everyday second baseman. Triple in his first at-bat, hitting the ball squarely into a huge right-center gap created by an Astros opposite field shift against him. Second at-bat, he doubled. Third at-bat, single. He jumped his average from .235 to .297 in one night. Alas, he didn’t get a final at-bat to try and go for the cycle.

“It looks like the spring training Sogard, the guy who gets a hit every time up,” said Melvin. “He got a good at-bat against a left-hander, too. That was good to see.”

A few other notes not covered in the pre-gamers.

–Coco Crisp was switched from center field to the DH before the game, with original DH Seth Smith going to left field and Chris Young to center. Melvin talked to Crisp, who is recovering from a groin strain, and decided it was the way to go. He’ll give Crisp the day off Wednesday to give the injury a full two days to heal before the A’s begin their six-game road trip in Tampa Friday.

–Congrats to Brandon Moss, whose wife Allison finally gave birth to a baby boy, Brody, Tuesday morning. Moss will miss Wednesday’s game but Melvin said he expects him to make the trip with the team to Tampa.

–The A’s had three triples in the game, tying an Oakland record that has been accomplished seven times previously.

–At 11-4, the A’s are off to their best since start since the 1990 team started 12-3. Five of the 11 wins have come against Houston, which has yet to beat Oakland.

–After an 0-for-3 night, Josh Reddick is 4-for-40 (.100) for the season, but he drew a pair of walks and scored the winning run on Josh Donaldson’s triple.

–Nice to hear “Sweet Caroline” supporting the city of Boston in the eighth inning. The crowd, although small at 11,038, really got into it. Too bad they couldn’t have played the whole song.

OK, probably forgot some of the minutae of the day, but that’s enough. I think Ken Korach is ready to start Wednesday’s pre-game show. I’m ready for beddy-bye. ‘Night.

Carl Steward