OAKLAND -- Jason Hammel said he has a long way to go before he pitches up to his expectations. A's fans aren't as particular.
Hammel threw scoreless baseball for 52/3 innings, and with each out, he whitewashed away some of the dark times that came from an 0-4 start and a 9.53 ERA. Together he and the A's sizzling bullpen shut out Tampa Bay 3-0 Tuesday, and past issues seemed to wither.
"I made some of the same mistakes I've been making," Hammel said in looking at his numbers, which included seven hits allowed and four walks, his first four-walk game of the season. "I was pitching in fastball counts, and obviously I'm not happy with the walks.
"But I'm going to grind it until I find it, until I find myself again. I'll do what I have to do. Sometimes it's going to be ugly, and tonight was one of those times, but I did some good things, too."
The good things included his first win since coming with Jeff Samardzija from the Chicago Cubs on July 4 and his ability to dodge the bullets and put together scoreless inning after scoreless inning until the A's offense could kick in.
That happened with Coco Crisp delivering a tiebreaking single in the fifth and Nate Freiman and Josh Reddick adding run-scoring hits an inning later. It wasn't much. It was more than enough.
"He's a talented pitcher, so it was just a matter of time before things started going his way," Crisp said of Hammel. "He did a great job in battling, and this is a big win for us tonight. He did a great job in shutting them down."
The 16,335 fans on hand seemed to think so. Hammel got a rousing ovation as he was taken out of the game with a one-run lead and a man on first base with two out in the sixth. Eric O'Flaherty got the out to close out the sixth, and the A's bullpen would not allow the Rays to reach base as Oakland's streak of scoreless innings from its relievers reached 212/3.
"The ovation was nice to hear; it was awesome," Hammel said. "Obviously I wanted to come in and make an immediate impact, and that didn't happen. But to know they still pull for me is great. I'm very appreciative."
Hammel was more of a four-pitch pitcher than the A's had seen in his first four starts. He was able to throw his curve, change, fastball and sinker for strikes. The sinker was huge, because it led to double-play grounders in the third and fourth innings that kept the Rays at bay at a time when Tampa could have slapped him around a bit.
"This was a big game for him," closer Sean Doolittle said. "He got out good with a good first inning, then he was able to pitch himself out of trouble when there were situations where there were guys on base."
It was a big game for the A's, too, because it gave Oakland some breathing room in the American League West. The A's (69-43) may have the best record in baseball, but the Angels have the second-best, and the Oakland lead is now two games after the Angels fell to the Dodgers in Los Angeles 5-4
Hellickson 0-1) at A's (Sonny Gray 12-4), 12:35 p.m. No TV
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