OAKLAND -- Jason Hammel’s home debut with the A’s couldn’t have gone much differently than that of fellow trade acquisition Jeff Samardzija, who introduced himself to the Coliseum crowd by allowing one run in seven innings of a win.
Hammel took the Coliseum mound in home whites for the first time Saturday evening, in front of a sellout crowd on hand to honor the A’s 1989 World Series team, and promptly surrendered four runs in the first inning, getting knocked around by his former teammates from Baltimore and knocked out just three batters into the third inning of an 8-4 loss.
Nick Markakis hit a leadoff single, Steve Pearce drew a walk and Adam Jones hit a 2-0 fastball from Hammel into the left-field bleachers to give the Orioles a 3-0 lead three batters into the game. Hammel also allowed a solo homer to J.J. Hardy before the first inning was over, then departed in the third after allowing the first three batters to reach on a walk, a single and a Chris Davis RBI double.
Several of those hitters played behind Hammel when he pitched for the Orioles in 2012 and 2013. Hammel acknowledged some extra incentive facing his former team, saying: "You like to show them something they’re missing.
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"But they got the best of me tonight," he said.
Hammel said the issue was "just bad execution on my part." Manager Bob Melvin said it appeared Hammel wasn’t controlling his fastball, and Hammel confirmed that has been the major problem in his first two starts with the A’s since coming over from the Chicago Cubs in the trade that also brought Samardzija. Hammel has allowed 12 hits and eight runs -- seven earned -- in seven innings, along with three home runs.
"I’m not pitching like myself right now," he said. "I need to get back to what I do well, and that’s fastball command and going off that with the slider. This’ll be one that I go home and forget, short memory, and come back and get to work tomorrow."
No doubt it’s one he hopes A’s fans can forget as well -- though they’ve proven this year to have a memory like the team’s white elephant logo when it comes to holding a grudge. Manny Machado has been loudly booed at every turn during this series, stemming from his actions against the A’s in a series in Baltimore in June. Jim Johnson also hasn’t been able to escape the ire of the fans, who sent more boos his way Saturday night as he came into the game in the ninth and gave up a leadoff home run to Chris Davis.
There were scattered boos as Hammel stumbled in the third and was removed from the game by Melvin (though Machado was stepping into the on-deck circle, so who knows where exactly they were directed?) While it wasn’t the introduction he was hoping for, Hammel sounded eager to move on Saturday night.
He credited Markakis, who singled twice against him, with "spitting on a couple of good changeups," and said of the home-run pitch to Jones: "He’s a fastball hitter. Getting behind him 2-0 … to get back in the count there I’m going to throw a two-seamer, try and get back somewhat into the count. I just left it up, and he did what he’s supposed to do with it."
"Physically I felt pretty good," Hammel said. "Just bad execution. It’s just one that I have to go home and forget, come back tomorrow and start over."
* Jed Lowrie drove in three runs with an RBI single and a two-run double, and appears to be carrying his offensive improvements from the two weeks before the All-Star Break into the second half. Lowrie is hitting .405 (17-for-42) over his last 11 games, including seven in which he has had multiple hits, and raised his batting average to .240.
"Honestly I felt like I probably wasn’t swinging the bat as well (lately) as I was before," Lowrie said. "But I’m getting hits. If you look, I think my line-drive rate went down a little but my average was going up.
"It’s a crazy game. That’s why you just play it out, continue to believe in the process."
Both of Lowrie’s run-scoring hits Saturday came with two outs, and he also hit a pair of line drives that were caught, so it’s not all coincidence. Melvin was asked if he’ll think about moving Lowrie up in the order -- he often hit either second or third last season but has often hit sixth or seventh recently -- and said it’s a possibility, but that Lowrie’s versatility and the depth of the A’s lineup means Lowrie doesn’t necessarily have to be hitting at the top or in the middle to make an impact.
* Speaking of deep lineups, the Orioles have a pretty good one themselves. The top three hitters in Baltimore’s lineup on Saturday reached base in 12 of their combined 15 plate appearances, with nine hits and six runs scored. And that’s before you get to Nelson Cruz (74 RBIs) and Davis, who entered Saturday batting just .200 but led the league last year with 53 home runs and had two extra-base hits Saturday.
"Really, one through six they can do a lot of damage," Melvin said.
The Orioles might not have a real front-line starter -- Wei-Yin Chen, who earned his 10th win Saturday, leads the staff in wins, but they don’t have any starters who have made at least 15 appearances this year with an ERA under 3.96 -- but their lineup makes them a dangerous team in any series and should keep them contending in the A.L. East.
* As well as Lowrie is swinging right now, Yoenis Cespedes is struggling. Cespedes was 1-for-4 in the loss but is just 6-for-53 (.11) with no-extra base hits and one RBI in July. That power he displayed in the Home Run Derby hasn’t made its way back to Oakland and real games -- Cespedes is riding a career-high 18-game streak without an extra-base hit, and his last home run came exactly a month ago, June 19 against Boston.
* The actual game felt anticlimactic after the big ceremony the A’s put on for the 1989 team Saturday afternoon. They rolled out the red carpet for former players and coaches -- literally, having them enter individually through the center-field fence and walk down a route lined with current players to form a line near the pitcher’s mound.
Current coach Mike Gallego got a loud ovation, as did several former players who were not on hand but filmed video messages that were shown on the scoreboard, including Terry Steinbach, Walt Weiss, Rick Honeycutt and Mark McGwire.
When he was introduced, Jose Canseco received what was the loudest cheer to that point. Canseco had said he was nervous about how the fans would receive him, and that while players had welcomed him back, the fans would have "the final decision."
Canseco’s reception was overshadowed, though, by those for Hall of Famers Dennis Eckersley and Rickey Henderson, and finally 1989 Series MVP Dave Stewart, who walked out to chants of "Stuuuu" from the crowd. Former manager Tony La Russa was introduced last and also cheered loudly.
For a team that didn’t have a chance to really revel in its World Series title -- there was no victory parade, with their win coming in the wake of the Loma Prieta earthquake that hit before Game 3 and devastated the Bay Area -- Saturday was a chance to experience some of that feeling.
"It was a joyous occasion," La Russa said later. "This team had so many great vibes that you bring them back together, it’s going to be a celebration."
One notable absence was Bob Welch, the former Cy Young winner who went 17-8 for the A’s in 1989. Welch, who passed away earlier this year at age 57, was represented by his children, and his name and number were written into the back of the pitcher’s mound. Each player introduced during the ceremony placed a flower by Welch’s name.
"People remember the guys that were on this team a little more clearly" than the 1970’s World Series teams, Lowrie said. "Any World Series team deserves that kind of recognition and adoration, because only one team does it a year, and it seems like a pretty special moment. Those guys, it’s well-deserved."
La Russa was asked just how good the 1989 team was -- they finished the regular season 99-63 and beat the Toronto Blue Jays, 4-1, in the League Championship Series before sweeping the Giants in the World Series -- and he didn’t tone down his answer.
"All these fans that think they can manage, they could’ve managed that team," La Russa said. "I mean, think about it, what didn’t it have? It’s as close to perfect as you could find and I’ll put it against any team ever.
"You had a deep outstanding rotation, a bullpen you could go to in all different situations. Power, speed, played defense outstanding. … There really wasn’t anything that that club didn’t have."
* The Los Angeles Angels lost in Seattle tonight, meaning the A’s lead in the A.L. West remains at 1 ½ games. They’ll try to win this series against Baltimore in the rubber game Sunday afternoon, with Sonny Gray (10-3, 2.79) opposing Orioles right-hander Kevin Gausman (4-2, 3.29). First pitch at 1:05 p.m.