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Game #97: Jason Hammel's early exit leads to A's 8-4 loss

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Adam Jones rounds the bases after hitting a three-run home run in the first inning against Jason Hammel.
Adam Jones rounds the bases after hitting a three-run home run in the first inning against Jason Hammel.
Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports

The Oakland Athletics fell to the Baltimore Orioles by the score of 8-4. Jason Hammel managed only two innings plus three batters in his second start for the Athletics. A's manager Bob Melvin had to empty his bullpen to get seven innings of work, and collectively they allowed only three runs.

1989 World Champions come to town

The day began with a moving pre-game ceremony honoring the visiting members of the 1989 World Series team. Entering from the centerfield fence down a red carpet to the pitcher's mound, the '89 team placed flowers at a number 35 etched into the back of the pitcher's mound honoring the late Bob Welch, who passed away earlier this season. Welch's family was welcomed to the ceremony and announced after all the visiting players.

Hammel's no good very bad day

Over his career, Jason Hammel has pitched extremely well at the Coliseum. Before today, he was 4-0 with a 1.80 ERA in five games and 20 innings pitched at the Coliseum, including two starts. Today ended that run.

Right away, Hammel conceded a single to Nick Markakis, a walk to Steve Pearce, and than a three-run home run to Adam Jones. Hammel did get Nelson Cruz and Chris Davis to strike out, but then allowed a solo home run to J.J. Hardy. Happily for the sold out crowd at the Coliseum, Manny Machado grounded to third to end the nightmare 32-pitch first inning, and the A's came to bat trailing 4-0.

Hammel pitched a quiet second, but in the third he walked Adam Jones, gave up a single to Nelson Cruz, and allowed a run-scoring double to Chris Davis. Manager Bob Melvin, with a rested bullpen behind him, had seen enough, and brought forth Dan Otero to try to stanch the bleeding.

Donaldson shines defensively

In the third, Dan Otero got the first out on a grounder to shortstop Jed Lowrie playing halfway in without allowing a run despite Nelson Cruz standing at third base. After throwing two balls to Manny Machado, Otero was instructed to walk him intentionally to bring up Nick Hundley.

Hundley hit what I can only describe as a Baltimore Chop down the third base line to Josh Donaldson (video linked). Donaldson came to the third base bag, grabbed the ball was his bare head to force out Chris Davis, and fired a bullet to Nate Freiman at first baseman to complete the run-saving double play.

Donaldson made a couple of other good defensive plays, both on Orioles second baseman Jonathan Schoop. He twice had to make 360-spin throws to get Jonathan Schoop out at first.

Good bullpen

In seven innings, the A's bullpen gave up only three runs. That's a quality start. Just play the game backwards and now you can be mad at Jason Hammel for blowing a save, or something. Dan Otero gave up two runs over two innings, though he did well to escape that third innings jam; Fernando Abad got four outs for the A's, including forcing Manny Machado to ground out 1-6-3; Ryan Cook got five outs, and struck out the side in the seventh; and Luke Gregerson got four outs in the eighth inning, getting Nelson Cruz to strike out after Nick Punto earned a fielding error on a Nick Markakis grounder to him.

Johnson though

At an individual level, it's not fair to be mad at Jim Johnson to give up a run in the ninth inning to end the save situation and give Orioles manager Buck Showalter a good excuse to leave his right-hander Darren O'Day in. Johnson ordinarily would have given up that run in the fifth inning.

In all seriousness, Johnson continued to show a complete lack of command, first grooving a hanging sinker into Chris Davis' wheelhouse, then walking J.J. Hardy, and taking Manny Machado to 3-and-1 before Machado grounded into a 6-4-3 double play. He did strike out Nick Hundley, but Hundley was just one of two Orioles who failed to reach base tonight.

It's not over until it's over. But it's over.

With the Athletics behind 5-0 in the bottom of the third, it seemed we were at a point where a lot of us might start to check out if Wei-Yin Chen was going to have a superior evening. Brandon Moss homered, however, to open up the hope for the packed house. The A's fell behind 7-1 in the fourth, but the A's strung together three hits, including Jed Lowrie's two-run double to match the Orioles attempts to put the game away. Lowrie added to his RBI total with a single to score Donaldson from second, and make the game 7-4.

In the ninth, trailing 8-4, it seemed the A's might be going down quietly. Darren O'Day remained in the game by virtue of leading by four runs. Derek Norris flew out to center and Jed Lowrie hit a liner to right that just would not fall in. Brandon Moss drew a four-pitch walk, and Stephen Vogt singled to right. Buck Showalter was concerned enough to bring in Zach Britton to close with the tying run on deck.

Nick Punto took three balls as the Coliseum crowd whipped back into a frenzy. He clearly was not going to be swinging until he saw a strike. Britton threw one, and then another. Finally, Britton tossed ball four, except Nick Punto swung and missed. The game was over.

100 wins means 62 losses. Here's to loss number 37. At least the Angels picked up loss number 38 tonight.

Opinion: This game is why I wanted Brad Mills to stick with the club

In this site's 378th declaration that Jim Johnson had pitched his last game in the Green & Gold jersey, I advocated for keeping Brad Mills on the active roster as long reliever. It's this sort of game that goes into why. A long reliever should be more than "the last guy in the pen," he should be a guy that both saves the rest of the bullpen from being used in a losing effort and also possibly be a player that can keep the game close enough to come back and at that point bring in the good relievers when they matter.

Instead, tonight, the A's used their entire bullpen except for left-handers Sean Doolittle and Eric O'Flaherty. Brad Mills easily could have pitched four or five innings out of the bullpen. It works out alright with the recent All-Star Break and with the off-day coming up Monday, but it's never a great feeling to use most of the bullpen in a losing effort.

Tomorrow

The A's wrap up the series Sunday afternoon with a 1:05 pm start. Baltimore's Kevin Gausman will face Sonny Gray.