Oakland rookie A.J. Griffin has shown great composure on the mound in shutting down some of baseball’s best offenses.
He’ll look to add the Toronto Blue Jays to the list and help the red-hot Athletics win seven straight games for the first time in three seasons Wednesday night at Rogers Centre.
Oakland (52-44) arrived in Toronto brimming with confidence after sweeping a four-game series from the New York Yankees, and it continued its surge by winning Tuesday’s opener 7-2. Yoenis Cespedes hit a three-run single and Derek Norris had a two-run homer for the A’s, who scored all their runs with two outs.
“That’s just perseverance, that’s just going out there and being clutch,” second baseman Jemile Weeks said.
Cespedes has come up with big hits time and again lately, batting .476 with four homers and 13 RBIs in the last 11 games. The A’s have won 10 of those contests and are a major league-best 15-2 in July, moving into a wild-card position in the AL.
“Just winning in itself is contagious,” Weeks said. “Once you get the belief that you can win, it’s easier to come about finding that W.”
Seeking seven straight wins for the first time since Sept. 14-20, 2009, the A’s turn to Griffin (2-0, 2.70 ERA), who is pitching like a savvy veteran despite having spent barely a month in the majors.
Griffin admitted that he felt some nerves facing the Yankees on Thursday, but it didn’t seem to show. The right-hander allowed two runs and seven hits in six innings of a 4-3 win, walking none and retiring 11 in a row at one point.
Griffin, who has 20 strikeouts and six walks in 30 innings, has recorded a quality start in each of his five outings despite encountering some of baseball’s top lineups. In addition to New York - fifth in the majors in runs - he has also faced top-ranked Texas and No. 2 Boston.
The Blue Jays (48-48) round out the top three in runs with 478. Toronto plated 28 runs in sweeping a three-game series from the Red Sox over the weekend, but managed just solo homers from Travis Snider and J.P. Arencibia on Tuesday.
Arencibia has homered in three straight games, and will likely be behind the plate again Wednesday to catch Ricky Romero (8-6, 5.22), who is mired in a career-worst five-start losing streak.
Romero appeared to be emerging from his funk, having allowed three runs over 12 innings in two starts heading into last Wednesday’s game at Yankee Stadium. But he gave up four runs in the first inning and ended up yielding six runs and a career-worst 12 hits in six innings of a 6-0 defeat.
That outing was reminiscent of the first two of his current skid, in which he was tagged for 17 runs over nine innings. The left-hander lost only once in his first 15 outings this year, getting lots of run support in that stretch, but the Blue Jays have been shut out the last three times he’s taken the ball.
A start against the A’s might be just what Romero needs. In six starts in the series, he is 4-0 with a 1.70 ERA - his lowest ERA against any team he has faced more than twice.
In Oakland on May 8, he gave up two runs, five hits and five walks in six innings before Toronto’s bullpen crumbled in a 7-3 loss.