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OAK@LAA: Griffin hurls eight scoreless innings

ANAHEIM -- All A.J. Griffin does is win.

That makes him a perfect fit for these rolling A's, who cruised to their third straight victory over the Angels, sixth consecutive win overall and an Oakland-record-tying 12th in a row on the road by way of a 4-1 decision Wednesday, thanks much in part to yet another stellar outing from the 6-0 Griffin.

"It's got to be one of the greatest starts in franchise history, right?" manager Bob Melvin asked afterward.

Indeed. The right-handed Griffin, a Southern California native who had nearly 40 friends and family members in the stands, is the first pitcher in Oakland history to start his career 6-0 and the second A's pitcher since 1927 to win six consecutive decisions to begin his career. Jim Nash went 7-0 over his first nine career starts in 1966.

As a team, Oakland has won 21 of its last 26 and 39 of 56 since the All-Star break, all the while improving to a season-high 22 games over .500. In the American League West, the A's remain three games back of the division-leading Rangers, who won their second straight Wednesday. Texas' magic number is 18.

The Angels, meanwhile, now sit 5 1/2 games behind the A's.

"Fact is, they're pitching well and they're hitting well, and that's why they're in first place in the Wild Card," Albert Pujols said.

Griffin, who began his season at Double-A, limited the Halos to just six hits -- half of which never left the infield -- over a career-high eight scoreless innings, fanning six and walking none while letting his teammates offer just the right dose of support.

Again, for the third time in this four-game set that concludes Thursday, the A's reached the board first. They are 57-16 when they do so.

On this night, they got a little help from Erick Aybar. The Angels shortstop made an error on Yoenis Cespedes' two-out ground ball, allowing Josh Reddick to score from second base.

Cespedes cushioned the A's slim lead to 2-0 -- with Griffin on cruise control, it felt more like 5-0 -- with a home run to lead off the sixth against Angels starter Ervin Santana, marking his second in as many days and 18th on the season.

It was Santana's last frame, as Griffin kept going to 107 pitches. He had quite the supporting cast, as Coco Crisp made two excellent plays in center field, including a throw on Mike Trout's single that nailed Chris Iannetta at third base for the second out of the third inning. Then, in the fifth, Iannetta was victim to yet another gem by Crisp, who turned in an acrobatic catch by fully extending to his left and robbing him of extra bases on a hard-hit liner.

"That's one of the best catches I ever had behind me, and I really appreciate it," Griffin politely said, smiling.

"I've said often, Coco's really kind of the igniter for us," Melvin added. "He's not just a guy that gets on base and steals bases. He plays great defense and has got some pop in his bat. He knocks in big runs, hits good pitching, all of the above. We really rely on him quite a bit, and the only thing you would maybe say that's a knock on his game is his throwing, and he makes a great throw and gets the guy at third that's a nice momentum builder for us."

Josh Donaldson and Derek Norris both doubled in the eighth, leading to Oakland's third run, and Crisp joined in by swatting an RBI single to right field to extend the club's advantage to four, before Sean Doolittle allowed a leadoff homer to Pujols in the ninth.

But this night wasn't to be spoiled for Griffin, and A's rookies now own 40 of the club's 82 wins, second most in Oakland history to the 2009 mark of 44. Those 82 wins, by the way, clinch the A's their first winning season since 2006, when Oakland rang up a 93-69 mark on its way to an AL Championship Series appearance.

Should the A's get there again, they'll be looking to four rookie starters -- Griffin, Jarrod Parker, Tommy Milone, Dan Straily -- for help.

"We put a lot of stock in these guys and we give them opportunities," Melvin said. "Every single one of them has responded. I think they feed off of each other. We're talking about a group now where you're looking at Milone and Parker as veterans, based on the fact they've pitched the whole season. We've got some talented guys, obviously."

"Good pitching beats good hitting," Norris, the young catcher, said. "You see that in the playoffs every year. I feel like, with our pitching staff, we can compete against any lineup, and we've proven that so far."

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