Recap: Rays @ A’s Game 136
Wrap: Oakland 5, Tampa Bay 1. A’s 78-58 (2nd Place, 1 game back)
This was supposed to be a tough stretch of the A’s schedule, but here we go and the A’s are on a roll as today at O.co Coliseum they completed their sweep of the visiting Tampa Bay Rays and in the process turned a 1/2 game deficit for the first wild card spot and three game deficit in the AL West into a two and a half game lead for the first wild card spot and a mere one game deficit in the division with the Rangers due to visit the Bay Area. That is a clutch time to roll off a winning streak and set the stage for a solid September. While the A’s have their sights set on a division crown, setting some distance between them and other wild card competitors also eases the pressure on them quite a bit.
Especially with the rosters expanding (or maybe because of it) it seemed a strange move but Rays manager Joe Maddon opted to go with an all-reliever outing instead of using righty Roberto Hernandez against the lefty-heavy lineup of the A’s. That resulted in the starter being Wright who made his first start since 2007 and the A’s faced a parade of seven relievers total (including Wright) in this game. I am not sure if this is an advantage for the pitchers or hitters as the hitters constantly see new faces and fresh throwers or if given that they are relievers the batters just continually see subpar pitchers vis-a-vis starters. Regardless the A’s offense did OK, scoring enough to win, but not really taking the Rays to task for such an easy for some to critique move (I like the creativity of it myself though the execution may not have been ideal). The A’s started the game the best way possible with Coco hitting another lead off home run to start the ballgame. He has been on fire as of late as in his last 11 games (yes, arbitrary end points) he is hitting .364/.404/.818 with six home runs. I was thinking that his option might not be something to pick up but his play as of late makes me maybe think otherwise. Vogt also managed a solo home run against his former club, with his coming off Jake McGee to give the A’s some insurance in the 7th and make it 3-1. The A’s would have a rally in the eighth to expand the lead to where it would end at 5-1. Lowrie, Cespedes and Barton all had multiple hits (all went 2-for-4), with Lowrie doubling for the only other extra base hit outside the home runs. Cespedes had a great toss to get Wil Myers out at the plate and since I don’t have a “the glove” section, I’m going to throw that comment in here.
Just as the Rays used a lot of pitchers for a game that only saw five runs, nine hits, four walks and four strikeouts, the A’s used quite a few for a game that only saw them allow one run on seven hits with just one walk. Griffin got the start and went seven strong, he allowed only five of those hits, along with the one walk while striking out seven. The lone run he gave up came on a solo home run by James Loney, the league leading 33rd home run he has surrendered this year bringing his per nine to an unsightly 1.7 HR/9. This is not an easy feat when you pitch half your games in Oakland and commensurate with that the last A’s pitcher to lead the league in home runs allowed was way back in 1982 and it was Matt Keough who allowed 38, though at just a 1.6 HR/9 clip. The comparisons end there as Keough had a dreadful campaign with 209 1/3 innings of 3.2 K/9, 4.3 BB/9 baseball for an FIP of 5.88 which wasn’t far off of his 5.72 ERA. Griffin’s peripherals are a lot cleaner with 7.2 K/9, 2.5 BB/9 for a 4.74 FIP but his ERA is a neat 3.84. That said, he and Chris Tillman of the Orioles lead the lead with the widest gap between their ERA and FIP at 0.90 points. Otero, Doolittle and Cook’s time on the hill was uneventful which is just what you want from your relief corps.
Though we may not like the breathtaking frequency with which he allows home runs, Griffin managed to put it all together in this and the one home run did not ultimately effect the outcome. Of course, playing with fire one inevitably and eventually gets burned, but we can celebrate the times one gets away with it on the diamond as Griffin did today.