ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — At the start of spring training, Oakland manager Bob Melvin didn't know who A.J. Griffin was. Things have changed quite dramatically since then.
Griffin threw eight scoreless innings, becoming the second Athletics pitcher in 85 years to start his career with six straight wins, and Oakland beat the Los Angeles Angels 4-1 on Wednesday night.
"He's on my radar now, put it that way," Melvin said. "We didn't see him at all in the spring. But once the season started, we were watching pretty intently because he was pitching well in the minors.
"We've seen a lot of good games out of him. But against that lineup, here at this place, that's probably as good as we've seen him. He's got a lot of confidence and he's been fun to watch."
Oakland, the AL wild-card leader, stayed three games behind first-place Texas in the AL West. But the surprising A's have a five-game cushion with 20 to play in the race for the league's final postseason spot.
Griffin (6-0) allowed six hits, struck out six and walked none in the longest of his 11 major league starts. The 24-year-old right-hander, one of four rookies in the A's rotation along with Jarrod Parker, Dan Straily and Tommy Milone, lowered his ERA to 1.94 in his third start off the disabled list.
"Someone's got to go out there and pitch, so why not me? That's kind of the way I look at it," said Griffin, promoted from Triple-A Sacramento on June 24. "You just go out there and try to do the best you can and give the team a chance to win. It's just worked out in my favor to be 6-0. Tonight I had pretty good command of all four of my pitches, and I just tried to go after guys and get ahead."
The only other A's pitcher since 1927 to win his first six decisions as a big leaguer was Jim Nash, who was 7-0 over his first nine starts in 1966.
"I just try to detach myself from that kind of stuff," Griffin said. "But you've got to go out there with confidence. I mean, I don't want to sound like, 'Yeah, I thought I was going to be this good.' But I thought that I would do well if I just kept to my game plan — keep throwing strikes, getting ahead of guys and keeping them off balance. It's pretty much the same game up here. They just don't miss as much when you make a mistake."
Rookie pitchers have 40 wins for the A's, four shy of the Oakland record set in 2009.
"We've put a lot of stock in these guys and we've given them opportunities," Melvin said. "If we didn't feel like they had the makeup to be able to do this, we couldn't. But every single one of them has responded.
"I think they feed off each other," he added. "I mean, we're talking about a group now where you're looking at Milone and Parker as veterans, based on the fact that they've pitched the whole season. Straily wasn't on our radar either this spring, so (general manager) Billy Beane and the front office have done a great job targeting these guys when they're ready to come up and perform."
Sean Doolittle gave up a leadoff homer in the ninth by Albert Pujols before Ryan Cook got the final out for his 14th save. Pujols, a three-time NL MVP, became the first player in history with 30 homers in each of his first 12 seasons. He also tied Stan Musial and Willie Stargell for 28th place on the career list with No. 475.