Midland right-hander A.J. Griffin continued his strong April on Tuesday afternoon, striking out eight over six no-hit frames, but the RockHounds ultimately fell to host Springfield, 5-2.
Griffin, Oakland's No. 13 prospect, issued one walk and faced one batter over the minimum. The San Diego product tossed five scoreless innings at Arkansas on Opening Day but has yet to receive a decision. He's allowed two hits while fanning 16 in 11 innings so far this season.
"I was locating my fastball pretty well and mixing in the changeup and curve to keep hitters off balance," he said. "The main thing for me so far this season has been keeping the ball down and trying to use different planes."
The only flaw in Griffin's outing was a two-out walk to Cardinals designated hitter Thomas Pham in the fifth inning. The 6-foot-5 Griffin did not go to a three-ball count against any of the other 18 hitters he faced.
Griffin made six starts for the RockHounds last season with decidedly different results, going 2-3 with a 6.47 ERA and six home runs allowed.
"Last year I was trying to do way too much," he said. "I'd get excited and overthrow the ball. I need to be smarter -- I don't have a big 95-mph arm; I need to move around in the zone and use all my pitches."
After a one-two-three first inning, Griffin struck out the side in the second. All three hitters went down swinging, and were evidently badly fooled -- each of the three strikeouts had to be completed by a catcher Ryan Lipkin throw to first base.
Springfield leadoff man Jose Garcia opened the fourth with a bunt attempt, but was thrown out at first by 'Hounds third baseman Michael Spina. Whether Griffin perceived the bunt as a slight to his no-hit bid or not, he fanned the next three Cardinals he faced. He closed out his day by getting Garcia to fly out to right to end the sixth.
"It was a 1-0 game and it was only the fourth inning -- it's baseball, he was trying to get on base and that's fine," Griffin said of the bunt attempt. "If it was the eighth inning or something, that would be a little different. I'm from San Diego and I still remember [Padre] Ben Davis breaking up Curt Schilling's no-hitter with a bunt [on May 26, 2001]."
Griffin threw 78 pitches with 51 going for strikes. Though he threw first-pitch balls to nine of 19 hitters, no Cardinal was able to take advantage of being ahead in the count.
He exited with a 1-0 lead thanks to a pair of doubles from Josh Horton and Anthony Aliotti in the second inning, but the RockHounds bullpen was unable to hold the advantage.
Making his second appearance of the season, reliever James Simmons issued three walks and a pair of wild pitches in the seventh. Combined with two Cardinals hits -- center fielder Adam Melker's single was Springfield's first base knock of the day -- the RockHounds yielded three runs in the inning.
Springfield scored twice more in the eighth to open up a 5-1 lead. Simmons (0-1) was charged with all five runs on three hits and three walks in 1 1/3 innings. He struck out one.
Cardinals starter Scott Gorgen had a strong outing of his own, allowing one run on three hits over six innings. The 25-year-old right-hander fanned six and did not issue a walk but did not factor in the decision.
Reliever Keith Butler improved to 1-0 with his third scoreless appearance of the season, striking out three in 1 2/3 innings. Left-hander Sam Freeman notched his first save after allowing an unearned run over 1 1/3 frames.
After splitting its season-opening six-game road trip, the RockHounds face a 700-mile drive back to Midland, where they'll open up their home schedule against the Arkansas Travelers on Thursday night.