OAKLAND -- A.J. Griffin got Bartolo Colon before Colon could get Griffin
"No no-hitter," Griffin told Colon as he entered the A's dugout after the top of the fifth inning, when Griffin surrendered his first base hit of the day.
No no-hitter, indeed, what with the running joke is for Colon to approach that day's starting pitcher to remind him -- yes, even after the top of the first -- that a no-hitter was lost in that inning. But Griffin still pulled off an impressive feat -- his first career complete game, a two-hit shutout, as the A's beat Cincinnati, 5-0, Wednesday afternoon at the O.co Coliseum.
"I'm sure you guys weren't thinking about a complete game after the first inning," Griffin said to reporters surrounding his locker. "Neither was I."
Griffin laughed. But this was no joking matter. Not after Griffin had been winless since May 25 and gone 0-3 in five starts since that day. And not after an uneven first, in which Griffin walked two batters -- the only two free passes he'd issue all day -- and needed 22 pitches just to get out of the initial inning.
But it was in that inning that A's manager Bob Melvin said Griffin found himself, so to speak.
"The (Joey) Votto at-bat," Melvin said, referring to the Reds' third hitter. "It looked like he got his command back."
Even if Votto walked, Griffin proceeded to strike out Jay Bruce and then Todd Frazier to end the threat with a pair of Reds runners on second and third after a double-steal.
A fielding error by Josh Donaldson on Zack Cozart's grounder with two out in the second did not distract Griffin -- "He was able to pick me up," Donaldson said, "and that's what it's about." -- and a Cincinnati batter did not get a hit until Devin Mesoraco's flare into shallow center field bounded off the heel of an onrushing Chris Young's glove for a single.
And yes, Griffin was thinking no-hitter, which is why he was able to beat Colon to the punch after the inning.
"Chris made a great effort on it," Griffin said. "And I made sure everyone knew it wasn't a no-hitter with that double off the wall."
Griffin, who struck out seven and got through the game on 108 pitches, was referring to the ball hit by Xavier Paul with two out in the seventh, though it appeared as Josh Reddick might have had a play but he mis-timed his leap at the wall.
WIth the possibility of a no-no gone, the inkling of a shutout remained.
"I was trying not to think about it," he said with a laugh, "because I was trying not to blow it.
"Bob's such a great man, a great manager, that you don't want to let him down."
He did not, mostly because the connection between Griffin and his catcher was on point. Even if they only met for the first time some 24 hours earlier.
It was Stephen Vogt, promoted from Triple-A Sacramento on Tuesday, who nursed Griffin through that rough patch of a first inning, and Vogt who helped Griffin navigate through his first career shutout.
"I shook him off like twice," Griffin said. "He had a pretty good idea how to attack these guys.
"At this level, you expect him to be good. We got on the same page right away."
So don't talk to Vogt about his 0-for-6 start at the plate in Oakland contributing to an 0-31 big league beginning. It's what he does behind the plate that matters at this stage.
"I could have a 4-for-4 game," Vogt said, "but to catch a shutout, a game like A.J. just threw, that trumps anything."
So said Melvin, that former big league backstop.
"As a catcher," Melvin said, "there's nothing more prideful than calling a shutout."
And for a pitcher, there's little more precious than a physical keepsake or two from said shutout. So there they sat, on the chair facing his locker…the lineup card from the day and the accompanying scouting report on the Reds hitters.
No no-hitter? Griffin had the next best thing. Just like Colon, who shut out the Chicago White Sox on May 31.