Dominant starting pitching performances fall, more or less, into three categories: the first, and by far the most uncommon, is the one where the pitcher really isn’t that good, but the batters are extremely unlucky and hit everything right at someone. Today was not that. The second is the overpowering start, where the pitcher breathes fire into his glove, forging Arthur's Sword and slicing through the batting order. There would be no fire today, not with Jered Weaver and A.J. Griffin on the mound. The third? A pitcher commands everything well, throws strikes, and keeps hitters off-balance, getting a plethora of badly-hit baseballs.
We have a winner, and his name is A.J. Griffin, who pitched the Rangers’ first complete game shutout of the season.
On the other side of the scorecard, well, there are a million ways to lose a baseball game; Jered Weaver selected the “throw them 83mph fastballs until the manager takes mercy and pinch-hits for you with another pitcher in your first at-bat” route. The Rangers won 11-0.
It is not unheard of for the Rangers to have a good first inning this year, but today was their best thus far. Shin-Soo Choo was hit by a pitch, and he moved to second when Elvis Andrus hit a ball about as far in the air as you can hit a ball with an exit velocity of 57mph (which is to say it barely made it over the shortstop’s head). Then Nomar Mazara added some velocity diversity, screaming a 108mph double down the right field line. Choo and Andrus scored, the latter on a slide that resembled fine art, and with the score 2-0, that would have been enough.
But it has been a frustrating week, month, season for the Rangers’ offense, and there are no rules against running up the score in baseball, so after Rougned Odor blooped a 2-out single, Ryan Rua hit a 3-run home run, and it was 5-0 before Griffin even threw a pitch.
In the third inning, Joey Gallo, having watched a close pitch to make the count 3-2, swung his Paul Bunyan swing and Babe the blue ox gave a celebratory bellow and the ensuing 2-run home run was both majestic and brutal. So by the time Griffin allowed his first hit–an Allen Cordoba single that the Padres shortstop unsuccessfully tried to stretch into a double, jamming his shoulder on the slide–it was 7-0 Texas.
Cordoba recovered and stayed in the game, but one must wonder if the slide was a contributing factor to his two errors in the 4th inning, which led to another run. It was 8-0, and Griffin was cruising, commanding his fastball with precision, which set up his curveball for maximum destruction.
“That’s a huge part of my game,” Griffin said afterwards “Being able to locate the fastball and the second and third times through the order, being able to strike people out with the curveball, so having both of those pitches working for me today was a huge help.”
Speaking of help, gratuitous as it might have been by this point, there was more on the way from the Rangers’ offense. Carlos Gomez led off the 8th inning with a walk, advanced on a wild pitch, and scored on a Gallo single. Robinson Chirinos was next, continuing his splendid start to the season with a 2-run home run, his fifth of the season. It was 11-0, and the only remaining mystery was whether Griffin would get a chance to finish the game or not, as Austin Bibens-Dirkx warmed in the bullpen.
Bibens-Dirkx would have to wait to make his MLB debut.
Griffin retired the side in order in the eighth, as he had in the seventh, as he would in the ninth. When former Ranger Luis Sardiñas grounded out to end the game, it completed Griffin’s second career shutout. He had thrown 104 pitches, allowing just four hits, one walk, and striking out four.
It was the first time pitching in Petco park for the San Diego native.
The Rangers needed a win, and mercifully, they got one to end the road trip. They split the first 2-game series with the Padres, and now both teams will fly to Texas to play two more. Yu Darvish and Luis Perdomo are the scheduled starters.
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