Coco Crisp

Fifth time’s the charm for Jason Hammel


This is the Jason Hammel the A’s traded for.

There’s no palpable reason why he went 0-4 with an ERA over 9.00 in his first four starts with the A’s after posting a stellar sub-3.00 ERA in 17 starts with the Cubs, but he finally broke through Tuesday night. Hammel labored through 5.2 scoreless innings in a 3-0 victory over Tampa Bay, likely saving his spot in the pitching rotation in the process.

Hammel lived on the edge all night, as there was at least one runner in scoring position each inning from the second through the sixth. But he got the big outs when he needed to against the Rays, who went 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position and left nine on base. Hammel induced two double plays and would depart after 97 pitches to a standing ovation.

The A’s were able to get some runs on the board thanks to a few awful throws from Rays’ outfielders. In the fifth, Coco Crisp singled to right with Alberto Callaspo on second. There would been a close play at the plate, but Kevin Kiermaier’s throw sailed way over the head of the catcher, and Crisp wound up at third because Rays’ pitcher Drew Smyly didn’t back up the throw. It was déjà vu in the sixth inning — Nate Freiman’s double down the left field line was able to score Derek Norris all the way from first because the relay throw by Yunel Escobar didn’t have a chance at reaching the plate. That throwing error allowed Freiman to go to third, and Josh Reddick drove him in with an RBI single to left field.

That’s what separates the A’s from the rest of the pack. Make a throwing error or don’t back up the plate? The A’s will burn you, and given their loaded pitching rotation, that will more than likely be all the offense they need to win.

Straight A’s

— Coco Crisp returned to the lineup as the DH, and the leadoff hitter made an immediate impact with that fifth-inning hit to knock in a run. Crisp is the engine that makes the A’s go, the table-setter that sets it up for the big bats. Some may blame the A’s recent offensive struggles on the Yoenis Cespedes trade – and that could certainly have had an effect – but Crisp’s absence also played a big role.

— Josh Reddick is hitting .387 (19-for-49) since returning from the DL. Reddick keeping this up — especially if Jonny Gomes and Sam Fuld pitch in — would surely help the A’s get over the loss of Cespedes.

— The A’s bullpen is something else. Ryan Cook threw five pitches in a scoreless seventh inning, then Luke Gregerson (1.84 ERA) needed just 11 pitches to get through his 13th consecutive scoreless inning. And Sean Doolittle, of course, nailed down his 17th save of the season, tying Alan Embree for most saves by an A’s lefty in a season.

— If I have to listen to Shooty Babbitt pronounce the team’s name “Ath-A-le-tics” one more time …

— Jim Johnson signed a minor-league deal with the Tigers today, so look forward to him sending the A’s to the World Series – by blowing the save in Game 7 of the ALCS.

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