ARLINGTON, Texas — A pair of former Oakland A’s standouts turned into rotation reclamation projects will try to pitch their clubs into the All-Star break on a winning note Sunday.
A few years ago both Minnesota’s Tommy Milone and Texas’ A.J. Griffin were the future of Oakland’s rotation. Those days are gone, but both have found new life with their new organizations this year as they head into their start against each other Sunday.
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Griffin is 3-0 with a 3.06 ERA in his nine starts with Texas. He was 3-0 with a 3.38 ERA before going on the disabled list in early May for six weeks with right shoulder stiffness. Since returning from the DL he has a 3.38 ERA in three starts but has pitched a total of 13 1/3 innings.
The right-hander knows he has to pitch deeper into games, especially for a Texas rotation that came into Saturday with a seven-game stretch of no starter pitching more than five innings.
"I’ve tried to be as competitive as I can be and tried to minimize damage," said Griffin, who is coming off a four-inning outing against Boston in which he threw 96 pitches. "I pitched out of some situations and it could have been worse. I’ve got to try and get some quicker outs and pound the zone. I know what I’m capable of doing."
While Griffin has been solid when healthy for the Rangers all season, Milone has come on strong recently for a Minnesota that has started to find its stride.
The lefty Milone (1-2), who won 25 games while he was a teammate with Griffin in Oakland in 2012 and 2013, is coming off his first win of the season on July 5. He allowed one run over six innings in an 11-4 win over Los Angeles. It matched the longest start of the year for Milone, who was outrighted after a slow start to the season. But since coming back from Triple A last month, he’s made three starts and has allowed one earned run in two of them.
He’s helped spark a rotation that came into Saturday’s game against Texas 7-3 with a 3.33 ERA over the last 14 games.
"It’s something you want to build on," Minnesota manager Paul Molitor said of the pitching. "We’re certainly not content by any means. Offensively, we’ve kind of smoothed out a little bit in terms of fairly comfortable that we’re going to have a chance to score almost every day. You kind of combine that with the fact that we’ve gotten the best stretch of starting pitching that we’ve had all season, and it’s reflected in winning a few more games here as of late."
Both pitchers would like to pitch their team into the break on a winning note too. There’s nothing wrong with having four days off to savor a win.
"It’s huge to be able to take that momentum going into the second half," Griffin said. "We’ve had a long go, without much time off, we just want to win this one and send us into the break."