A.J. Griffin is enjoying a career renaissance with the Texas Rangers in his long-awaited return to the majors. Mike Pelfrey couldn't be off to a worse start in his first season with the Detroit Tigers.
Griffin looks to continue dominating opponents Saturday at Comerica Park while Pelfrey again tries for his first victory, but the Detroit right-hander has shown no signs of coming close to earning one.
Texas (16-14) took a chance on Griffin by signing him to a minor league contract in December after he was released by Oakland. The right-hander spent his first two seasons with the Athletics and went 21-11 with a 3.60 ERA in 47 starts, but he hadn't pitched in the majors since 2013 following elbow and shoulder injuries.
Griffin is off to a 3-0 start and ranks among the AL leaders in ERA (2.32), opponent batting average (.180), WHIP (1.00), opponent on-base percentage (.254) and opponent slugging percentage (.306).
Those numbers are mostly due to a devastating curveball. Of the 44 pitchers who have thrown a curve at least 75 times, Griffin's velocity of 67.0 miles per hour is the lowest and opponents are batting .087 on the pitch.
"(My curveball) makes my fastball play at a lot faster velocity, and it's a huge weapon for me to have," Griffin told MLB's official website.
He was solid again Monday at Toronto, allowing one run and three hits with a career high-tying nine strikeouts over six innings while not receiving a decision in a 2-1 win.
Griffin went 1-1 with a 6.75 ERA in three starts against Detroit, including one in the 2012 AL division series, before his injuries. Miguel Cabrera should be happy to see him again after going 4 for 8 with two homers and a double in their matchups.
Pelfrey could use that type of support since the Tigers (14-14) have scored twice with him on the mound, and those runs came in his last outing. However, he hasn't helped himself by posting a 5.68 ERA while going 0-4 in five starts.
Minnesota knocked him out in the fifth inning Sunday as Pelfrey allowed five runs and eight hits in a 6-5 win. His strikeout-to-walk ratio of 0.80 is the worst in the majors among starters who have pitched at least 25 innings.
"It's not always easy," he said. "I just want to do my part, because these guys in here are so good. ... These guys picked me up. I'd prefer they not have to do that, so that part of it is frustrating, you know? I'm going to be better. I know I'm better than what I'm showing. I'll get it figured out here."
Pelfrey went 0-2 with a 7.02 ERA in his first three starts against Texas before giving up one run and four hits over seven innings of an 11-1 win Aug. 12. He's had trouble with Prince Fielder, who's 11 for 31 with three homers and two doubles when facing him.
The Rangers have won six of the last seven meetings following a 5-1 victory in Friday's series opener that snapped their three-game losing streak. Rougned Odor went 3 for 5 with a home run and three RBIs, and he's batting .381 while homering three times in the last 10 games.
Detroit was held to two hits, both by Ian Kinsler, as it lost its fourth straight following a five-game run. The Tigers have scored eight times during the skid after averaging 7 runs on the win streak.
"We could have had better at-bats," manager Brad Ausmus said. "I wouldn't say I was overjoyed with our at-bats. We could have done a better job. I think we chased out of the zone."