In for John Hickey …
I’ve seen the golden sombrero before — that would be four strikeouts by a hitter in four at-bats — but I’ve never seen two in the same nine-inning game. So there’s a first for everything at the ol’ ballyard. Chris Young fanned four times for the A’s and Jay Bruce went for the quadruple whiff for Cincinnati.
Bruce obviously felt a lot worse about his. He struck out with runners at second and third in the first inning, a development that could have changed everything about A.J. Griffin’s glorious day on the mound. He also fanned as the last out in Griffin’s first complete game, a two-hit shutout.
Young took his in good humor. Following the game, he retweeted a fan who dubbed him KKKKhris Young on Twitter. That’s pretty upstanding for a guy who is now hitting .188 with 47 strikeouts in 181 at-bats.
It’s always easier to deal with personal failure when you win. Hey, talk to Stephen Vogt, who could be making history if he hangs around with the A’s after Wednesday. He has an RBI and he’s caught a shutout in the bigs, but as a hitter, he’s drawing a bead on a dubious record — most at-bats to start a big-league career by a position player without a hit. He’s at 0-for-31 with his 0-for-6 the past two days (he went 0-for-25 over three stints with Tampa Bay last year). The thing is, he’s not clueless. He’s made good contact in every at-bat so far, hasn’t struck out. He just hasn’t had any luck. To wit, Reds second baseman Cesar Izturis caught what looked to be a sure hit over his shoulder in the second inning.
The modern-day record is 0-for-35 set by Vic Harris of the Texas Rangers in 1972. Dolph Camilli had an 0-for-34 to start his career, and former A’s first baseman is third on the list with an 0-for-33. Everybody’s rooting for the guy not to break it, even us scribes. Hopefully, the A’s keep him up long enough to get that first hit. Heck, they might consider keeping him up anyway. He looks to be a solid catcher with a good knack for calling a game. Griffin praised his work behind the plate Wednesday, noting he only shook him off a couple of times. And he’s a left-handed bat.
Melvin hinted he might stick around, and praised his work behind the plate.
“He’s done a nice job, whether it’s setting up, blocking or working with the pitcher,” Melvin said. “Everything he’s done has been really good. For his confidence, that goes a long way knowing that even if you don’t get a hit, you’re contributing. As a catcher, I don’t think there’s anything you find more prideful than calling a shutout.”
It’s easy to think of Griffin as an old hand — same for Tommy Milone, Jarrod Parker and Dan Straily — but these guys are still so young with so much episode. Griffin is 25 with a year and two days in the big leagues and he shuts down one of the best hitting clubs in baseball on two hits? It just speaks to what his future could be once he can be consistent with his command, and he’s not bad now.
Griffin has every ingredient for large success — four quality pitches, superior control, a good head on his shoulders and a hyper-competitive attitude. Don’t let the surfer hair and laid-back lingo fool you. Griffin hates to lose and he’d had more than enough of it after a month without a victory. Burning him even more is the A’s hadn’t won in his last five starts. He’s a team guy and is always alluding to that in his comments.
“I want us to win every single game no matter who’s pitching,” he said. “I don’t like losing. I don’t think any of the guys on this team like losing. I don’t want to count the chickens before their hatched or anything, but I feel like we’ve changed the culture a little bit around here and we expect to win every day.”
Josh Donaldson is back on the beam. Homers on back-to-back days, and first-pitch blasts at that. He’s hitting .308 with 12 homers and 51 RBIs, and while no one expects him to beat out Miguel Cabrera for the third base starting job on the American League All-Star team, he’s got to be a strong candidate for the game.
It’d be a great reward for a guy who has worked hard to improve his game both at the plate and in the field. He’s become a superior third baseman and a consistent clutch hitter. He takes his walks when we’re there, but unlike some past patient A’s we’ll leave nameless, he’s not stuck in the walk mentality. He’ll be aggressive when the situation calls for it. Early in the year, he was swinging at a lot of first pitches with good results, but when pitchers started wasting their first pitches to him based on that, he laid off. Now they’re coming in again, and he’s not missing.
“The last week or so, guys have been throwing more first-pitch fastballs,” he said.
The key is Donaldson’s making adjustments. He’s just becoming a complete, valuable major leaguer for the A’s, a long way from where he started at the beginning of 2012.
Nate Freiman had had two at-bats in 11 days leading up to his pinch double in the seventh that drove in the A’s final run. It was an impressive hit, particularly considering the lack of activity. How is he staying sharp?
“I get as much work in the cage as I can,” he said. “Pitchers are nice about letting me stand in during their bullpens occasionally. The most important thing, I come to the park every day, even if I know I’m not in the starting lineup, prepared to play.”
In short, a good day for the A’s on all fronts.