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Griffin lets loose in A's shutout

The SportsXchange

NEW YORK -- Before a start, most pitchers are locked in. They pore over scouting reports, keep their headphones plugged in, don't make eye contact and avoid talking to people.

Oakland Athletics right-hander A.J. Griffin might be the exception.

Hours before a game, he entertains anyone who walks in the clubhouse by strumming his guitar and singing in multiple languages.

After Griffin outpitched C.C. Sabathia on Friday night by scattering six hits in seven-plus innings in a 2-0 victory, he will likely keep the routine going.

"He's almost the complete opposite," said Oakland reliever Sean Doolittle, who was Griffin's minor-league roommate. "He puts his music on in the stereo. He's walking around talking to guys. I think he was playing guitar earlier, which I'm sure wouldn't fly anywhere else, a rookie technically rocking out to a guitar.

"He keeps it loose and that's his thing. He's one of those guys that doesn't over-think it. He's got a lot of confidence in his stuff and that's what he calls on is that confidence when he's out there. He's challenging the zone with every pitch he has, so he's a fun guy to watch."

Griffin made the viewing pleasurable for Oakland by ending a four-game skid in his fourth career outing of at least six scoreless innings. He threw an efficient 98 pitches to 28 hitters while limiting scoring opportunities for the Yankees.

"I've brought it a couple of times," Griffin said. "I've played it a few times before the games in L.A. and now here. So maybe I should play it before every game, but it's a good way to kind of clear your mind before you play and have a good time.

Griffin had a good time by not falling behind and rarely getting into deep counts. He threw first-pitch strikes to 17 hitters and reached just four full counts.

"Griffin did a great job changing speeds," New York left fielder Vernon Wells said. "There are nights when you have to give the guy on the mound credit and he did a good job. He made pitches when he needed too."

He also held the Yankees hitless in six at-bats with a runner in scoring position and allowed just one runner to reach third base as Oakland posted its first nine-inning shutout of the season. Its other shutout was a rain-shortened 13-0 win in Boston on April 23.

Griffin came into the game with a 9.00 ERA and a .277 batting average against him in his last two starts against Boston and Baltimore but was even more effective against the Yankees than last July when he had a shutout going through five and allowed three runs in six-plus innings.

Even with the effectiveness of his 10th career victory, Griffin knows there might be a perception that his personality could lead some to get the wrong impression of him.

"The thing that I don't want to happen is for people to think that I don't care," he said. "Obviously, I care. I don't want my teammates to think he's pitching tonight and he's not even locked in. That's kind of how I do it.

"I like to be not too serious before I go out there because I got to be pretty serious for hopefully seven or eight innings when I go out there. It's just a good way to clear my mind and enjoy my time at the ballpark before I go out there and have to do my work."

The relaxed mood in the clubhouse and subsequent performance by Griffin was among the better ones by Oakland's starting staff this season. The Athletics' rotation had produced a 6-11 record with a 5.87 ERA in the last 22 games since April 9 and the American League's third-highest ERA this year.

Griffin's outing was even more satisfying for Oakland because it made their limited chances against Sabathia stand up even further. Sabathia gave up two runs and eight hits in six innings but wound up escaping trouble most of the game as he threw a season-high 118 pitches.

Afterward, he said plate-umpire Jordan Baker yelled at him for questioning a call in the third inning but did not use that an excuse.

"They missed some calls, still no reason for me not to make pitches and go out and do my job," Sabathia said. "I don't think it affected me."

Oakland's first run came on the first pitch when Adam Rosales sent a fastball into the left field seats for his first career leadoff home run. The second run came in the sixth when Derek Norris lined an RBI single in the sixth.

"Leading off, my goal was to get on base," Rosales said. "I saw that first pitch and the ball jumped off my bat."

After getting the second run, Griffin breezed through the sixth and seventh before his night ended on Brett Gardner's bunt single. Gardner never advanced because Doolittle retired Robinson Cano on a flyout and Wells on a double play.

Doolittle also retired the first two hitters in the ninth on four pitchers before giving way to Grant Balfour, who ended the Athletics' second shutout by striking out Eduardo Nunez for his fourth save in as many opportunities.

The five outs also served as redemption for Doolittle, who gave up a game-ending home run to Russell Martin in the 10th inning in New York on Sept. 21.

"To be honest, I really wanted to do it for Griffin," Doolittle said. "He pitched so well all night long and to go up and put up a zero and get it to Balfour, that was a huge win, on the road in a close game like that. That was the biggest thing."

NOTES: The Yankees replaced right-hander Joba Chamberlain (oblique) with right-hander Preston Claiborne, a 17th-round pick in the 2010 draft. With Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Claiborne converted three saves in as many opportunities in eight outings. Claiborne also pitched well during spring training, going 1-0 with a 0.84 ERA in 10 appearances. Since the Yankees had to open a spot on the 40-man roster for Clairborne, right-hander Cody Eppley, a side-arming, ground-ball pitcher, was designated for assignment. ... The Yankees also said right-hander David Robertson will be out until next week's three-game series at Colorado. Robertson injured the area where the hamstring meets the quadriceps on his left leg covering first base in Wednesday's win over Houston. "I'll do whatever they let me do," Robertson said. "That's pretty much all I can do, wait a couple of days and see what happens. I was hoping I'd be able to throw today if they'd let me, but (it's) not gonna happen." ... Oakland outfielder Chris Young ran in the outfield to test the left quad that he strained during Monday's 19-inning victory over the Angels, but he was held out of the starting lineup for the third straight game. ... New York first baseman Mark Teixeira did tee and toss work with his swing and thinks full batting practice can happen in a few days, likely at the team's minor-league facility at Tampa. If there are no issues, he could appear in simulated games before progressing to extended spring training.
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