The only thing wrong with having four aces is that it means you don't have five aces. Regardless of whether the "four aces" narrative holds up steady through the rest of the regular season — Jeff Samardzija really has yet to prove himself as a true No. 1 starter on an elite team in a competitive division — the A's will be left with a fifth "non-ace" in their rotation, a spot currently occupied by Samardzija's trade brother, Jason Hammel.
To put it in simple terms, Hammel has been absolutely terrible since arriving in the East Bay. In four starts, he's 0-4 with a whopping 9.53 ERA, and is allowing nearly two batters per inning to reach base. He simply isn't getting it done, and there's plenty of speculation that should he not return to form (he pitched to a 2.98 ERA in more than 100 innings with the Cubs), Jesse Chavez will return from the bullpen to retake the fifth starter's role.
But Hammel still has the ball this evening, the fifth game in a 10-game homestand and the second installment in a three-game series between Oakland and Tampa Bay. In winning the opener, the A's did something that they hadn't done in three straight series last night, and now have two opportunities to win their first series in their last three tries.
Opposing Hammel is the newly acquired southpaw, Drew Smyly, formerly a Detroit Tiger but brought to "the other Bay Area" in those clubs' deadline-day blockbuster that sent David Price dangerously close to the Canadian border. Smyly has a 3.93 ERA on the year. He was shelled in his only appearance of the season against Oakland — that was the Memorial Day game in which the A's beat Detroit 10-0, earning eight hits and six earned runs with Smyly on the mound.
The big news tonight on the lineup front is Coco Crisp, who makes his first start in more than a week, nursing an unrelenting neck injury. Coco is leading off and filling the designated hitter role this evening, with Sam Fuld continuing to hold down the fort in center field, batting second. Fuld almost certainly can't maintain an impressive reverse-platoon wRC+ of 124 against left-handed pitching, but it'll be interesting to see how much that figure regresses to the mean over the course of the season's final 50 games.
Jed Lowrie is also out of the lineup with a non-serious injury to his index finger; as a result, Eric Sogard has to man shortstop and bat against a left-handed pitcher, something he did to the tune of a wRC+ of 87 in 2013. Injuries are really putting a damper on Bob Melvin's platoon system — Sogard is in the lineup instead of Callaspo, and the left-handed Josh Reddick is in instead of the right-handed Craig Gentry. But hey, Crisp is back.
Full lineups are listed below, with first pitch from the Oakland Coliseum set for 7:05pm.
|TAMPA BAY RAYS||OAKLAND A'S|
|Desmond Jennings - CF||Coco Crisp - DH|
|Ben Zobrist - LF||Sam Fuld - CF|
|Matt Joyce - DH||Josh Donaldson - 3B|
|Evan Longoria - 3B||Jonny Gomes - LF|
|James Loney - 1B||Derek Norris - C|
|Yunel Escobar - SS||Nate Freiman - 1B|
|Cole Figueroa - 2B||Josh Reddick - RF|
|Curt Casali - C||Alberto Callaspo - 2B|
|Kevin Kiermaier - RF||Eric Sogard - SS|