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Shaky start leads to win, first career complete game for A's Griffin

The SportsXchange

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Oakland A's right-hander A.J. Griffin threw four straight balls to the first hitter he faced Wednesday, walking Cincinnati Reds center fielder Shin-Soo Choo. Then with one out he walked Joey Votto, bringing Reds slugger Jay Bruce to the plate.

Griffin struck out Bruce and Todd Frazier in order, escaping unscathed but throwing 22 pitches.

"I'm sure you guys weren't thinking after the first inning it was going to be a complete game," Griffin said hours later, as reporters crowded around his locker. "Neither was I, but I just went out there and kept trying to execute pitches, and it worked out."

Griffin put an emphatic end to his career-long three-game losing streak, tossing a two-hitter en route to the first shutout and first complete game of his career in a 5-0 victory over the Reds.

Griffin struck out seven and walked two, pitching to A's catcher Stephen Vogt in a game for the first time in his life. He threw only 108 pitches, 73 of those strikes.

"It's really easy to call a game for a guy who's executing every single pitch," Vogt said. "He was outstanding today. He was throwing all four of his pitches, down up, whatever he wanted whenever he wanted. He was absolutely outstanding."

A's third baseman Josh Donaldson homered for the second straight game against the Reds, launching a three-run shot into the left field seats off Homer Bailey during a four-run rally in the fourth.

"It's nice to do that," Donaldson said. "It's kind of been something in my past that I've done. It seems like when I hit one, I normally hit one the next day for some reason. I don't know why. Maybe it's just the swing. Maybe it's getting some pitches to drive. But they were pretty aggressive with me both games throwing strikes. If they're going to try to fill the strike zone up on me, I'm going to swing."

The A's swept the two-game series and improved to 7-2 this season in interleague play. They won for the 15th time in their past 16 games at the O.co Coliseum and own the American League's best home record at 24-12.

The Reds lost for the fifth time in the last six games and fell to 1-4 on their eight-game road trip.

"That's the first time we've seen him, and he was impressive," Reds manager Dusty Baker said of Griffin. "He was changing speeds, maybe a 20-22 mph differential on his fastball. He had us eating out of his hand and chasing out of the strike zone."

Griffin didn't allow a hit until the fifth inning when Reds catcher Devin Mesoraco sent a sinking line drive to shallow center with one out that Chris Young got a glove on but couldn't catch. Griffin got the next hitter, Cesar Izturis, to hit into an inning-ending double play.

In the seventh, Griffin gave up a two-out double to Reds designated hitter Xavier Paul, who launched a shot off the right-field wall, just out of the reach of a leaping Josh Reddick. Griffin struck out Zack Cozart to end that threat.

Griffin's toughest inning turned out to be the first.

"I was spinning off my release point a little bit, not staying in my lane to the plate, kind of searching for it," Griffin said. "Stephen talked to me before the game (and asked) if there was something he could do to help me get back on track if we were ever going off-track. I told him if I'm not in my lane just let me know. He kind of told me that a little bit. I started trusting (myself), just throwing the ball through those lanes, just letting it go instead of trying to hit spots too much."

Bailey gave up four runs on four hits over six innings, as his record fell to 4-6. He struck out seven and walked two. Bailey blanked the A's on two hits over the first three innings, but they scored four runs in the fourth, stringing four straight hits together. Jed Lowrie and Yoenis Cespedes singled, Brandon Moss hit an RBI double, and Donaldson hit his 12th home run of the season.

For the second straight game, Donaldson homered on a first-pitch slider.

"It was not that bad of a pitch, a first-pitch slider at the bottom of the zone, maybe a tick up," Bailey said. "There are not too many guys looking for a breaking ball from me on the first pitch, but he did, and he got it good."

Griffin won for the first time since May 25 at Houston.

"I was getting tired of ... going out there every fifth day and the team losing," Griffin said. "It's frustrating, especially when you feel like you could have pitched better."

NOTES: A's center fielder Coco Crisp was out of the starting line because he had to deal with a "family issue" that kept him away from the Coliseum until after the game was underway, A's manager Bob Melvin said. According to Melvin, the issue was resolved and was not an emergency. Melvin said he knew Tuesday night that Crisp would miss the start of Wednesday's game. Crisp joined his teammates in the dugout early in the game and was available to play but didn't make an appearance. ... Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips missed his second straight game while on paternity leave. ... Young struck out four times. ... Vogt went 0-for-3 and is now 0-for-31 for his career.
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