OAKLAND — The other pitcher the Oakland Athletics acquired in the trade for Jeff Samardzija is starting to look like he can contribute during the stretch run after all.
Jason Hammel’s second straight superb start ended with the A’s bullpen imploding in the final two innings of a 6-1 loss to the Minnesota Twins on Sunday.
But the right-hander’s turnaround is an encouraging sign for Oakland. Hammel, who beat Tampa Bay his last time out, had lost his first four starts following the July 4 trade from the Chicago Cubs.
“This is the best he’s pitched from what I’ve seen,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said.
Brian Dozier’s 20th homer in the first was the only run Hammel allowed in 6 1-3 innings. He gave up four hits, struck out five and walked two.
“I had to stay the course. I’ve pitched enough to know you just keep going, you keep working at it and pitching through it,” Hammel said. “It was just a matter of going out there, trusting my stuff and keep competing.”
A poor offensive showing and a rare off day for Oakland’s bullpen gave Hammel little to show for his effort.
Kurt Suzuki hit a tiebreaking double and Josh Willingham added a two-run homer off Luke Gregerson (2-2) in the eighth as the Twins snapped a 12-game losing streak to Oakland. Minnesota scored two more in the ninth against Jesse Chavez to avoid a four-game sweep with its first win over the A’s since last September.
Stephen Vogt’s RBI single in the first accounted for the A’s only run.
Phil Hughes (12-8) allowed four hits in seven innings for his second straight victory. He came out because of a cracked nail on his right index finger, which he glued back on in the clubhouse — something he said he has done throughout his career and shouldn’t keep him from making his next start.
Oakland finished its homestand 6-4.
“It was a good homestand,” A’s shortstop Eric Sogard said. “We’re getting to the dog days of August and we know we have to continue to grind out the wins.”
LOST IN THE SUN
Suzuki, who was a catcher for the A’s from 2007-12 before returning for 15 games late last season, should know more than anybody on the Twins about how difficult the sun can be in Oakland during day games.
Instead, Suzuki provided one of Sunday’s best bloopers when he never turned to catch Josh Reddick’s popup that bounced off the warning track behind the plate in the fourth. Reddick drew Oakland’s only walk off Hughes in the at-bat.
“They said I missed it. But I didn’t think I missed it because I didn’t even try to go for it,” Suzuki joked. “It doesn’t count as a miss.”
Twins: First baseman Joe Mauer, who has been out since July 1 with a strained muscle on his right side, is expected to be activated at Houston on Monday. Infielder Trevor Plouffe (sore left foot) and outfielder Oswaldo Arcia (lower back pain) sat out. Both are day to day.
Athletics: Shortstop Jed Lowrie got the day off to rest his bruised right index finger, which sidelined him for three games last week. He’s expected to start Monday at Kansas City.
Twins: Minnesota will call up former A’s lefty Tommy Milone from Triple-A Rochester to start Monday in Houston. Milone was dealt to the Twins at the July 31 trade deadline for outfielder Sam Fuld after going 6-3 with a 3.55 ERA for Oakland this season.
Athletics: Sonny Gray (12-5, 2.87 ERA), the AL Pitcher of the Month for July, tries to rebound from back-to-back losses in August when he goes in the opener at Kansas City.