NEW YORK -- A.J. Griffin first heard rumblings of him potentially starting Tuesday's 5-4 loss to the Mets around 1 p.m. ET, even though he was slated to start Wednesday. Once he knew he was definitely starting, an assurance that came by 2:30 p.m., he began his pre-start preparations.
The need arose after original starter Andrew Cashner was scratched from Tuesday's start with neck stiffness. Griffin was still on normal rest despite moving one day ahead of schedule.
The Mets jumped on Griffin immediately: Michael Conforto sent his second pitch of the game over the right-field fence, and Yoenis Cespedes homered three batters later. Travis d'Arnaud added a two-run shot in the second to put Griffin and the Rangers in an early 4-0 hole.
"They're a good hitting team and an aggressive team," Griffin said. "I didn't have my best stuff in the first two innings and they capitalized."
After the d'Arnaud homer, Griffin rebounded to retire 12 of his final 15, including seven in a row at one point. Rangers manager Jeff Banister pulled him after the fifth inning at 88 pitches, since his maximum range currently sits between 90 and 95 pitches after his return from an intercostal surgery. Tuesday was just his second start since coming off the disabled list.
"You always want to go further any time you have the ball, especially in a game like that," Griffin said. "You want to go out there and give your chance to win, but after four quick ones in the first two innings, I was just battling to keep the game close. I just did the best I could tonight."
Griffin usually throws the day before he starts and the short notice did not allow him the chance to do so. Regardless, he refused to let the quicker-than-expected turnaround suffice as an excuse for his early struggles.
"I don't want to make excuses about that," he said. "I just gotta be better next time."
Before the game, Banister said it must have pained Cashner to inform the pitching staff he could not start.
"Cash is a pretty tough individual," Banister said. "For him not to be able to make a start, for him to even make that call, it was extremely challenging for him. He's not a guy that is going to just pull the plug on himself that early unless that's how he felt."
Banister said before the game that the most likely option to start on Wednesday is Martin Perez, in an effort to leave the door open for Cashner to bounce back, but the team announced late Tuesday that Perez would indeed start Wednesday. Like Griffin, Perez will be on regular rest Wednesday.