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OAKLAND – Geovany Soto chipped in a two-run single for the A’s on Monday, but the catcher’s biggest contribution might be the good results he’s coaxing from right-hander Jason Hammel.
Hammel fired eight innings of three-hit ball in a 6-1 victory over Seattle, his second impressive start in a row. Soto, acquired from Texas on Aug. 24, has been behind the plate for both of those starts, and the two seem to be developing a rapport.
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“I’ve just been following Geo’s fingers around,” Hammel said. “I’m very comfortable with him. We didn't do anything too fancy. It was mainly fastball, slider today. Just staying aggressive with the heater. That's when I'm good.”
Hammel (2-5) has allowed just two runs and six hits total over his past two starts (15 innings). And though he stumbled through a poor start in Atlanta on Aug. 15, the body of work in his past five starts has been solid overall. He is 2-1 with a 2.40 ERA (8 ER in 30 IP) over those five starts after going 0-4 with a 9.53 ERA over his first four starts with the A’s.
‘He was down in the zone (Monday),” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “He was unpredictable. He went ahead, good slider, plus-or-minus a little bit of the speed on the slider, good movement. Just enough change-ups. Soto’s done a nice job with him too.”
“He’s been throwing the ball really well both times that I’ve caught him,” Soto said. “He’s been pounding the strike zone, and his breaking ball has been there when he’s needed it. He looks confident out there. I kind of understand his sweet spot, if you will, his power zone. I just try to guide him in the right direction and try to put him in spots where he can be successful.”
Hammel said he’s gotten a better feel for his slider, which he didn’t have at all after first coming over from the Cubs with Jeff Samardzija in a July 5 trade.
“When your slider disappears for a month you kind of feel naked out there,” he said. “That's my go-to when I'm in trouble. It finally showed up, and I was throwing with some confidence today, like you saw. It's been pretty good the last few times out.”
Shortstop Jed Lowrie said his injured finger held up OK in his first game after being activated from the 15-day disabled list. He went 2-for-4 and scored in the first inning, and he made all the throws he needed to make.
“It’s more manageable now,” said Lowrie, who missed 16 games with a fractured right index finger. “Hopefully as September, and hopefully October go on, it slowly gets better. So we’ve given it enough time to where it’s manageable, we hit the reset button, and hopefully it gets better.”
Coco Crisp (strained neck) took some right-handed swings Monday, and he’ll receive trigger-point injections Tuesday to help ease the discomfort in his neck. His return date isn’t known yet.
Catcher John Jaso (concussion) hit in the cage, but Melvin said he won’t have a feel for how close Jaso is to returning until he takes regular batting practice on the field.
Closer Sean Doolittle (strained intercostal) is progressing well enough to where Melvin hasn’t shut the door on the reliever potentially returning when he’s eligible to be activated from the D.L. on Sept. 8.