Jason Hammel walked off the mound in the sixth inning to a standing ovation from the announced crowd of 16,335 at the Coliseum. He saluted the fans with his right hand, looking more relieved than happy.
Maybe for good reason.
Hammel snapped a four-start losing streak since being traded to Oakland and led the Athletics past the Tampa Bay Rays 3-0 on Tuesday night.
“Felt awesome,” Hammel said. “I wanted to come in and make an immediate impact. It didn’t work out that way. But it goes to show you how good of baseball fans we have here.”
Hammel (1-4) allowed seven hits and four walks in 5 2-3 innings. He entered the game with a 9.53 ERA since the A’s acquired him and Jeff Samardzija from the Chicago Cubs on July 4.
The right-hander said he worked in more breaking balls to keep hitters guessing.
“It’s a lot harder to hit when you’re thinking of four different pitches instead of two,” he said.
Coco Crisp, starting for the first time since July 26, singled home a run in the fifth, and Nate Freiman hit an RBI double during a two-run sixth to spoil Drew Smyly’s debut with Tampa Bay. Smyly (6-10) gave up all three runs, seven hits and two walks, including one intentional, in 5 1-3 innings.
The left-hander was traded from Detroit last week in the three-team deal that sent ace David Price to the Tigers.
“I fought pretty good,” Smyly said. “My pitch count got up there. I had a couple of deep counts. I missed my pitch against Freiman. Other than that, I thought I pitched well.”
Tampa Bay has lost three straight and five of six after an 11-1 stretch.
The Rays never could crack Hammel, who pitched for Tampa Bay from 2006-08, or any of the pitchers the major-league leading A’s threw their way. Three relievers tossed scoreless ball before Sean Doolittle pitched a perfect ninth for his 17th save in 20 tries to preserve Hammel’s win.
“That might be just what he needed,” Doolittle said, “to get on a roll.”
Hammel escaped trouble in the third and fourth innings by inducing a pair of ground balls that led to double plays. A’s shortstop Eric Sogard also snagged Ben Zobrist’s hard grounder and made a quick throw to nab Desmond Jennings at third base for the first out of the fifth. Sogard started at shortstop instead of second base because Jed Lowrie was nursing a bruised right index finger. “He really looked like he was comfortable,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said.
It was a far different story on defense for the Rays. Curt Casali was called for catcher’s interference on Josh Reddick’s grounder leading off the A’s eighth. Third baseman Evan Longoria threw way wide on a relay home in the sixth for another error that helped Derek Norris score from first on Freiman’s double. And Kevin Kiermaier tried to cut down Alberto Callaspo at the plate on Crisp’s single in the fifth but sailed his throw to the backstop from right field. “I always encourage guys if they’re going to throw it away, to really throw it away. So he takes instruction well,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “Really, though, when you’re not scoring, those things get magnified.”
Rays: Outfielder Wil Myers, on the 60-day disabled list with a broken right wrist, went through an extensive workout and drills for the second straight day in Port Charlotte, Florida. The Rays could decide by the end of the week when Myers will begin his rehab assignment.
Athletics: Lowrie (bruised right index finger) is day to day. First baseman Kyle Blanks (left calf injury) ran the bases and will do so again on Thursday before Oakland decides whether to send him out on a rehab assignment.
Rays: Jeremy Hellickson (0-1, 3.29) tries to snap his six-start winless streak, which dates to Sept. 4, 2013.
Athletics: Sonny Gray (12-4, 2.59) goes in the series finale after winning AL Pitcher of the Month for July.