ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) - A.J. Griffin gave the Oakland Athletics a taste of what he could do last year as a rookie when he won seven of eight decisions, including a victory over the Los Angeles Angels in which he pitched eight scoreless innings.
Now that he's gotten his first full season in the big leagues under his belt, the repeat AL West champions expect the 25-year-old right-hander to make even more strides toward being a vital piece of manager Bob Melvin's rotation.
Griffin gave up three runs and five hits over five innings and struck out seven Tuesday night in a 3-0 loss to the Angels. He was 4-0 in his previous five outings, including a no-decision last Wednesday against the Halos when he retired 17 of his final 18 batters and allowed one hit over six innings - a two-run homer by Mike Trout.
``A.J.'s been consistent all year,' Melvin said. ``Like anybody, he's had a rough stretch or two. But if you look at the overall body of work, it's been a pretty consistent year for him and something to be proud of. Based on the way he pitched last year, this is about what we expected - to be consistent and keep his team in games and win his share of them. And he's done all that.'
Griffin (14-10) has a 3.83 ERA and 171 strikeouts in 200 innings - along with a major league-worst 36 home runs allowed. The Oakland single-season record in that department is held by Catfish Hunter, who gave up 39 in 1973 and still won 21 games.
``I feel pretty good about the season I've had,' Griffin said. ``It's just about being competitive, pounding the strike zone and getting ahead of guys. Home runs happen, but it's just part of baseball. I'm just trying to contribute here. We've got a great thing going on with this club and I look forward to being a part of it and doing great things here.'
The A's, who clinched their second straight division title Sunday, remain a game behind the Red Sox for the best record in the majors following Boston's 8-3 loss at Colorado.
Angels left-hander Jason Vargas (9-7) earned his second shutout of the season with a four-hitter. He threw 110 pitches, retiring 15 consecutive batters at one point and striking out five en route to his fifth shutout and 10th complete game in 153 career starts.
``He hit his spots well, mixed up his pitches and kept painting the corners. And when he does that, it makes him tough to hit,' said A's first baseman Daric Barton, who struck out twice and is 4 for 16 lifetime against Vargas. ``He was throwing all three pitches for strikes, so it was tough to get his pitch count up.'
For the second straight night, Howie Kendrick homered his first time up after not hitting one in his previous 30 games. The Angels increased the margin to 3-0 in the third on Josh Hamilton's two-out, two-run single with the bases loaded.
Hamilton, making his fourth start in center field since joining the Halos, threw out Alberto Callaspo trying to stretch a single into a double in the eighth. As a result, Oakland never got a runner past first base against Vargas.
``I think anytime you go up against a team that won the division, you want to pitch well and give it your best,' Vargas said. ``It was definitely a better game than the last one. I was able to control counts and was able to throw fastballs and curve balls. That made the changeup more effective.'
Vargas, who was acquired from Seattle for slugger Kendrys Morales, is 3-3 with a 4.64 ERA in his last nine outings after missing almost two months because of a blood clot near his armpit.
``That tells you a lot about how hard he worked to come back, and the professional that he is,' pitching coach Mike Butcher said. ``He's pitched great baseball for us. We definitely missed him in the rotation those two months he was gone, because he's going to give you a chance to win every time he takes the ball. He definitely knows how to go out there and compete, and he's picked us up these last nine starts.'
NOTES: 1B umpire John Hirshbeck called Yoenis Cespedes safe and then out on a bang-bang play in the seventh as second baseman Kendrick fielded the ground ball up the middle and completed an inning-ending double play. ... Josh Donaldson made his 153rd start at 3B, the most by an A's player at that position since Sal Bando in 1976 (155). ... Vargas' other shutout this season was a three-hitter against Baltimore on May 3 in Anaheim. ... The advance sale for Wednesday's home finale will easily put the Angels over the 3 million mark in attendance for the 11th straight season. They are 16,721 shy. ... Trout, who was presented with the Gene Autry Trophy before the game as the Angels' MVP for the second straight year, hasn't homered in his last 15 home games and 52 at_bats at Angel Stadium since going deep in back-to-back games against Texas Aug. 6-7. ... Kendrick homered in back-to-back games for the second time this season, including July 5-6 against Boston.
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