HOUSTON – Jason Hammel took the mound Wednesday afternoon looking for a turnaround.
He instead fell deeper into the funk he’s experienced since his trade to the A’s. Hammel was lit up for a career-high tying eight runs in 4 1/3 innings in an 8-1 loss to the Houston Astros, a game that essentially was decided after Houston’s six-run first inning.
Less than a month after the A’s seemingly loaded up their rotation with a blockbuster trade, they have a serious decision on their hands regarding Hammel.
He’s lost all four of his starts with Oakland since coming over from the Cubs in a July 5 trade with fellow starter Jeff Samardzija. He carries a 9.53 ERA in those four outings, allowing 18 earned runs, 26 hits and 10 walks over 17 innings.
Will his nightmarish afternoon at Minute Maid Park convince the A’s to try someone else in his spot? The timing of his struggles adds more intrigue (urgency?) to the situation. The non-waiver trade deadline arrives at 1 p.m. Thursday, and a report originating from CSN New England on Tuesday listed the A’s as one of several suitors for Boston ace Jon Lester.
They would appear challenged to pull off such a deal based on their remaining trade chips, but the larger point is that the A’s brass is still be on the lookout for starting pitching, and that’s something no one could have predicted on July 5.
They could also turn to Triple-A Sacramento should they decide to remove Hammel from the rotation. Lefties Tommy Milone and Drew Pomeranz would be the leading candidates from the River Cats.
Starting pitching report
Hammel couldn’t apply the breaks in a horrid bottom of the first, when he gave up six runs on six hits in a 44-pitch inning. His problems again centered on poor location and falling behind to hitters. He left his slider up in the zone and served up Robbie Grossman’s two-run homer after falling behind 3-1.
He steadied the ship over the next few innings but then walked Jason Castro to begin the bottom of the fifth. Hammel again found himself in another 3-1 count and Jon Singleton homered to the opposite field to put the A’s in an 8-1 hole.
Hammel has allowed 10 home runs in his last nine starts, stretching back to his time as a Cub.
It wasn’t like the relief corps really had a chance to factor into this one. But Ryan Cook, Eric O’Flaherty, Fernando Abad and Luke Gregerson finished out the final 3 2/3 innings with no more runs scoring.
At the plate
The A’s found themselves in an early deficit that they couldn’t chip away at. Josh Donaldson led off the second with a line-drive homer, but the A’s managed just four hits off lefty Dallas Keuchel (10-7), who went the distance, struck out five and walked three.
Billy Burns played center and hit leadoff for the A’s in his first major league start and finished 0 for 4.
In the field
Burns committed an error in the first that let a second run score on Matt Dominguez’s RBI single. The rookie couldn’t find the handle picking the ball up off the grass.
A 10-game homestand begins Friday night against Kansas City, with a special 6:35 p.m. start time on fireworks night. Sonny Gray (12-3, 2.65) takes the mound against Jeremy Guthrie (6-9, 4.70) in the opener of the three-game set with the Royals. Saturday – Scott Kazmir (12-3, 2.37) vs. TBD, 1:05 p.m. . Sunday – Jesse Chavez (8-7, 3.44) vs. James Shields (9-6, 3.50), 1:05 p.m.