July 19, 2012; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Athletics starting pitcher A.J. Griffin (64) pitches the ball against the New York Yankees during the second inning at O.co Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-US PRESSWIRE

AJ Griffin Proves He Fears No Team, Beats Yankees


In late May this game would have been a heartbreaker and we all would be hysterically upset that the A’s can’t beat the Yankees to save their lives.  Usually the budding rally the Yankees started in the top of the 1st inning would’ve put them ahead immediately and had the A’s playing a failed game of catch up all night.  Usually Freddy Garcia would’ve used his wily veteran powers to confuse the A’s hitters as the Yankees cruise to yet another victory in Oakland.  But tonight was not business as usual in Oakland.  Yoenis Cespedes, having not played in the previous series, rudely introduced himself to the Yankees with a 1st inning golf swing rocket into the left field bleachers that probably mirrored some tee shots Tiger Woods took earlier in the day at the British Open.  This time it was the Yankees playing that failed game of catch up.

TURNING POINT:  The top of the 1st inning was the moment it was made clear to everyone that this game wasn’t going to play out in the same fashion all the other games has.  Derek Jeter singled to lead off the game in classic opposite field Derek Jeter style, and surely every A’s fan held their breath, feeling the dread of what was expected.  After Curtis Granderson flied out, Alex Rodriguez delivered a single of his own.  The Yankees had 2 on and 1 out against the young right hander AJ Griffin, making just his 5th MLB start.  Then a bizarre play took place when Robinson Cano lined a ball at Yoenis Cespedes that appeared to be caught but was dropped shortly thereafter.  Cespedes seemed to think he dropped the ball while transferring to his throwing hand, and everyone else did too.  Derek Jeter and A-Rod froze at their bases, and Cespedes realized what call had been made and heaved the ball towards 3rd base.  The ball sailed well over Brandon Inge’s head but thankfully Griffin was backing up the throw, he ran to the base and forced out Jeter.  Such a strange play like that usually goes against the A’s, but this time it worked in their favor.  Mark Teixeira was retired to end the inning and the threat.  That changed everything in 1 half of an inning.

ON THE MOUND:  AJ Griffin settled in nicely after his rather interesting 1st frame, retiring 11 Yankees in a row after Raul Ibanez singled with 1 out in the 2nd.  The Yankees got a couple runs on the board  in the 6th inning against Griffin, but the rookie buckled down and limited the damage.  Usually Mark Teixeira’s sac fly with the bases loaded would’ve been a game tying grand slam, tonight it wasn’t.  Griffin pitched 6 innings, allowed 7 hits and walked nobody while striking out 4 to earn his 2nd big league victory.  Sean Doolittle and Grant Balfour each pitched routine 1-2-3 innings in the 7th and 8th innings.  Ryan Cook came on for the save tonight, he only surrendered 1 hit but it came in the form of a Nick Swisher home run, the first Cook has given up in the Major Leagues, but he gathered himself quickly to lock down the first A’s win at home against the Yankees since the Reagan administration.

AT THE PLATE:  Yoenis Cespedes continued to swing a hot bat, going 2-3 with a walk and the big 2 run homer.  It’s no coincidence that his hot hitting has come just as the A’s have really started winning.  Seth Smith struggled for the most part tonight, but did have the one 2 run single that ended up giving the A’s just enough to hold onto the win tonight, Smith was 1-4 with 3 K’s.  Coco Crisp went 3-4 with a run scored, his AVG is now up to .242, a much more respectable number than he had been posting before.  Jemile Weeks was 2-4 with 2 runs scored and a stolen base.  And then there’s the bottom third of the order, I know it’s supposed to be where all your team’s weakest hitters are placed, but this is ridiculous.  The 7-8-9 hitters were 0-11 with 5 K’s tonight (Derek Norris, Brandon Inge, and Cliff Pennington I’m looking in your direction).  Norris is lost at the plate right now, one might wonder if his time in Oakland for the immediate future is coming to an end if his bat continues to be in a coma.

FINAL THOUGHTS:  The A’s now find themselves 4 games over the .500 mark at 48-44, they haven’t been this far above .500 since May 2010.  It was important for them to get this streak the Yankees had over them in Oakland out of the way right off the bat, now they can play looser and more relaxed through the remaining 3 games.  AJ Griffin proved himself yet again on a big stage against the mightiest of the mighty teams in baseball.  It would’ve been nice if Ryan Cook had been able to pitch a scoreless 9th to end the Yankees streak of 43 straight games scoring 3 or more runs, but beggars can’t be choosers.  Billy Beane will probably lose sleep tonight though about the ineptitude of the bottom third of the order/left side of the infield, something has to be done if the A’s are serious about improving the team.  The fact of the matter is this, there isn’t a definite solution on the way to Oakland for both of these positions, Grant Green will probably take one of those positions soon enough if this continues, but Beane may have to look outside the organization to help the team win.  But in the here an now, Tommy Milone (9-6, 3.54 ERA) takes the hill against the Bombers tomorrow night and he’ll be opposed by the young right hander Ivan Nova (10-4, 4.18 ERA).  Milone needs to continue his exceptional pitching at home because runs may be at a premium against a tough opponent in Nova.  The A’s can take this series by the horns with a win tomorrow, I hope they show the Yankees and the world that this is a team to be reckoned with.

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Tags: AJ Griffin Alex Rodriguez Brandon Inge Cliff Pennington Curtis Granderson Derek Jeter Derek Norris Freddy Garcia Grant Balfour Grant Green Ivan Nova Jemile Weeks Mark Teixeira Nick Swisher Oakland Athletics Robinson Cano Ryan Cook Sean Doolittle Seth Smith Tommy Milone Yoenis Cespedes