The long ball buried Jason Hammel and the A’s on Friday night in a 7-2 loss to the Atlanta Braves.
And if giving up four home runs was the extent of Oakland’s problems in the opener of a three-game series at Turner Field, they could chalk it up as a bad night pitching and move on.
But there was so much more ugliness that unfolded aside from what happened on the mound. The A’s suffered breakdowns on defense and on the base paths as well, as they absorbed their fifth loss in the past six games. At the game’s conclusion, the Angels held a comfortable lead over the Texas Rangers, leaving the A’s on the verge of having their American League West lead shrink to just one game.
Jason Hammel surrendered three homers and lasted just three innings, a clear step backward for a pitcher who had built up some good vibes with two solid starts following four poor ones.
The A’s found themselves in an early hole due to Hammel’s struggles, and their play the rest of the night endured they wouldn’t be clawing their way back.
Starting pitching report
After two impressive outings, Hammel seemed to have steadied himself following the rocky start to his A’s career. Then the Braves teed off. And though Atlanta entered the night tied for 10th in the National League in homers, it was their middle-of-the-order boppers who did the damage.
Justin Upton and Evan Gattis each unloaded on fastballs to make it 2-0. More trouble lurked in the third. Jason Heyward and Phil Gosselin both singled with one out, then Hammel caught too much of the plate on an 0-1 slider to Freddie Freeman, and the All-Star first baseman launched a three-run shot to center for a 5-0 game.
Hammel (1-5) now has a 6.75 ERA in seven starts with Oakland, and he’s served up nine home runs in 32 innings.
Manager Bob Melvin went to his bullpen early in the hopes of keeping the game within striking distance. Jesse Chavez, usually quite reliable in a long relief role, gave up a two-run homer to Phil Gosselin in the sixth to make it 7-2. That came one pitch after first baseman Nate Freiman booted a slow-rolling grounder for an error. That mess happened with two outs and the A’s on the verge of getting out of the inning.
At the plate
Freiman crushed a two-run homer in the fourth off lefty Alex Wood (9-9) to bring the A’s within 5-2, but an inexcusable mental error right after that stunted hopes of a bigger rally. Alberto Callaspo was on second with one out when he took off running on Andy Parrino’s fly ball to right, apparently thinking there were two outs. It turned into an easy-ending double play, and the Braves returned to their dugout with their three-run lead intact.
In the first inning, the A’s had two runners and one out, but Jonny Gomes got picked off second on a play that was overturned on a replay review. Derek Norris immediately followed with a single that could have brought a run home.
In the field
Freiman’s error was a killer,as it extended what should have been a 1-2-3 inning for Chavez. And then Gosselin delivered his homer that made it a 7-2 game. Even center fielder Coco Crisp, normally so reliable, had trouble in the third, losing a cachable fly ball in the lights that wound up going for a ground-rule double for Chris Johnson. Norris also appeared to get crossed up on two passed balls that shouldn’t have got by him. A bizarre night in all aspects for Oakland.
Sonny Gray (12-6, 2.86) takes the hill against Julio Teheran (10-9, 3.06) in Saturday’s 4:10 p.m. game.