It took five starts, and it still wasn't pretty for Jason Hammel tonight at the O.co Coliseum—but he'll take it.
In fact, everyone associated with the Oakland Athletics will take it: Hammel, his teammates, Manager Bob Melvin, General Manager Billy Beane, and the O.co fans. There was a collective sigh of relief tonight at the Coliseum, no doubt.
Acquired on July 5th from the Chicago Cubs along with Jeff Samardzija, he was 0-4 as an A's starting pitcher. But Hammel was able to break through to the win column tonight, as the Oakland beat the Tampa Bay Rays at home, 3-0, to extend its slim lead in the American League West division.
The A's still have the best record in baseball—as they have every day since June 18. The 69-43 mark is the third-best record in Oakland history after 112 games. And Hammel earned this one: he went 5.2 innings with a lot of help from his teammates, who were very happy to see him succeed tonight.
The righty gave up seven hits and four walks, while striking out just two batters. But he was the recipient of two double plays behind him, and Hammel stayed the course long enough for the A's offense to pick him up.
Oakland has struggled in these two games against Tampa Bay: last night in a 3-2, extra-innings win, the A's stranded 18 base runners. Tonight, they left ten on base. But Coco Crisp, Nate Freiman and Josh Reddick all had run-scoring hits for Oakland, and it was enough for the victory.
Overall, the A's are just 4-for-23 with runners in scoring position for these two games. But wins are wins.
Considering he pitched well enough to win in two of his previous four starts, he was thankful for the run support:
- In San Francisco on July 9, Hammel gave up two earned runs in five innings;
- In Texas on July 25, he surrendered three earned runs in 5.2 innings.
In those two starts, the A's scored just three total runs. The team matched that tonight, of course.
(We don't need to mention Hammel's other two starts, against Baltimore on July 19 and at Houston last week: he gave up 13 earned runs in just 6.1 combined innings in those two outings. Ooooops, we just mentioned them.)
So now he's in the win column here, and perhaps this will give him some confidence going forward.
Oakland has its confidence back after losing back-to-back series for the first time since early May: after dropping two of three in Houston last week and two of three to Kansas City at the Coliseum over the weekend, the A's have secured this series against the always-competitive Rays.
The final is tomorrow at 12:35 p.m., and then Oakland hosts Minnesota for four games, Thursday through Sunday. The A's will take a two-game AL West lead over the Los Angeles Angels into tomorrow's matchup, as the Halos lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers tonight, 5-4.