A.J. Griffin put in another fantastic pitching performance Thursday afternoon, and all he had to show for it at the end of the day was another loss.
The right-hander fell to 5-4 on the season after going five and two-thirds innings and striking out five with only one walk, and the Oakland Athletics fell 5-2 to the San Francisco Giants, going 2-for-10 with runners in scoring position and squandering several early opportunities to break the game open.
Oakland put pressure on Giants starter Barry Zito right out of the gate with Coco Crisp leading off with a double and Jed Lowrie drawing a walk to put two men on with no outs in the top of the first. Both would steal with Yoenis Cespedes at the plate to put two men in scoring position, but Zito needed only 10 pitches to retire the next three batters and get out of an early jam.
The left-hander wouldn’t be so lucky in the second, and after issuing walks to Derek Norris and Griffin, Crisp squeezed a ground ball through the infield to to score Norris from second and give the A’s a 1-0 lead.
Unfortunately, that would be the last time the A’s would tag Zito for a score. Despite putting multiple baserunners on in the third and fifth innings, Oakland could never get the hit they needed to bring them home. Zito left the game after the sixth having given up six walks, but the A’s only touched him up for three hits and one earned run and struck out five times.
Up until that point, Griffin had pitched a masterful game, allowing only two baserunners and one hit through five innings. The Giants awoke in the sixth, however, and Bruce Bochy’s decision to pinch hit Brett Pill for Zito sparked a four-run rally when the 28-year-old singled to lead things off and moved to third on a one-out double by Brandon Crawford. Both would score when Pablo Sandoval hit a shot past a diving Jed Lowrie at second base, and the Giants took the lead on the slugger’s two-run single.
Griffin was able to induce a flyout by Buster Posey in the next at-bat, but his day ended after Hunter Pence singled up the middle to extend the inning, and Bob Melvin called upon Hideki Okajima to get the final out. It wasn’t to be, however. After a wild pitch advanced both runners, Brandon Belt smacked a double to the left field wall that brought them home, and San Francisco took a 4-1 lead.
The A’s were able to strike back for a run in the seventh when Cespedes hit a soft line drive off of George Kontos to right field to score John Jaso from second. But Oakland stranded men on base for the 10th time when Donaldson lined out to center and pinch hitter Brandon Moss struck out against Jeremy Affeldt, squashing Oakland’s best hope for a comeback.
San Francisco earned that run right back in the bottom half of the inning when Adam Rosales’ throwing error on a double play attempt to first allowed Nick Noonan to score to make it 5-2.
After Affeldt retired the side in the top of the eighth, the Giants had an opportunity to increase their lead when they put two men on against Pat Neshek. Neshek recovered to strike out Andres Torres, and after intentionally walking Noonan with an open base at first, he struck out Pill to end the inning.
San Francisco wouldn’t end up needing the insurance as Sergio Romo pitched a 1-2-3 ninth inning to earn his 14th save of the year, and the Giants avoided their first ever series sweep against the A’s with a three-run margin of victory.
The loss put an end to Oakland’s six-game winning streak and ensured that the Battle of the Bay would continue next season without either side ever having been swept in the matchup. The A’s are now three games back from the Texas Rangers in the division standings after Texas beat the Arizona Diamondbacks 9-5 earlier Thursday.
The A’s return to action Friday night against the visiting Chicago White Sox, with Bartolo Colon squaring off against Dylan Axelrod on the mound. Game time is 7:05 PST.