OAKLAND, Calif.--Jason Hammel pitched closer to form Tuesday and got his first Oakland win in the process, throwing a shutout into the sixth inning in the A's 3-0 win over Tampa Bay.
Hammel had been winless in his first four starts since coming over with Jeff Samardzija from the Chicago Cubs in the trade that saw Addison Russell and Billy McKinney go to Chicago.
And he wasn't perfect Tuesday, giving up seven hits and four walks in 5 2/3 innings. The A's helped him out with double plays turned in the third and fourth innings, and he helped himself out by forcing Rays batters into weak contact for the third out in the second with the bases loaded and in the fifth with men on first and third.
When Hammel left the game with two outs and a man on first in favor of lefty reliever Eric O'Flaherty, the Coliseum crowd of 16,335 gave him an appreciative ovation, and he was warmly received in the dugout by the A's, who remain owners of the best record in baseball at 69-43.
With the Dodgers beating the Angels, Oakland's lead in the A.L. West improved to two games.
The game saw the return of Coco Crisp to the starting lineup for the A's. Serving as the designated hitter after having missed the previous seven starts because of neck pain related to whiplash, Crisp broke a scoreless tie with a fifth-inning single.
An inning later, the A's scored twice on RBI hits from Nate Freiman and Josh Reddick. It wasn't much, but it was enough with Hammel and the bullpen putting away the Rays.
The A's inability to score early didn't fade away from Monday to Tuesday. Oakland had scored just one run total in the first four innings of the first four games of the homestand, and in Game 5 it was no different.
Oakland got a two-out double from Josh Donaldson in the first and a two-out single from Reddick in the second and came up with nothing. Things looked more promising in the fourth when Sam Fuld singled, took second on a wild pitch, and Donaldson walked.
With two outs, Fuld and Donaldson pulled off a successful double steal, but that just meant that the Rays walked Freiman with first base open, setting up a lefty vs. lefty battle between Drew Smyly and Reddick. Smyly won with a pop out.
Oakland broke through in the fifth when Crisp delivered an RBI single. Alberto Callaspo opened with a single and took second on Eric Sogard's bunt before Crisp grounded a ball to the right side of second base for a hit and a run.
Crisp would wind up being stranded at third, but the A's were back for more in the sixth, knocking Smyly out of the game in the process.
Derek Norris' one-out single got things started, but it was Norris' legs rather than his bat that were most significant. When Freiman doubled to left, Norris didn't stop at third base. Rays shortstop Yunel Escobar had to force a throw home, and it was far up the first base line, enabling Freiman to make third base on the error.
Reddick delivered the inning's second run with an opposite-field single, making him 19 for 49 since coming off the disabled list July 22.
--Jed Lowrie injured his right index finger trying to field a grounder Monday, so he got Tuesday off and that set up Eric Sogard for his second start of the season at shortstop. Lowrie may get a second day off on Wednesday. "With Nick (Punto) out, he's the next guy," manager Bob Melvin said of Sogard. "He's played quite a bit of shortstop for us before. "
--Kyle Blanks, who has been on the disabled list with a left calf strain since June 23, was running sprints Tuesday.
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