OAKLAND – Teammates have gotten to know Jesse Hahn as a cool customer on the mound and an even-keeled personality in the clubhouse.
He had a different demeanor going late in Monday’s game.
The ninth inning has been uncharted territory for Hahn, a right-hander who took the mound Monday never having thrown a complete game. That included 64 outings as a professional, minors and majors combined, plus three years at Virginia Tech University.
Hahn was at 99 pitches as he began the ninth before a charged-up Coliseum crowd on Memorial Day, the A’s leading the Detroit Tigers 4-0.
“I had so much adrenaline pumping through my veins,” he said afterward.
Hahn closed out his first career complete game and shutout, retiring Nick Castellanos on a fly to right fielder Josh Reddick on his 112th pitch. That continued this mini-surge by the A’s, who have won three games in a row on the strength of their young starting pitching.
Hahn, Sonny Gray and Kendall Graveman did not yield a single run over the past three games in 20 combined innings.
It seemed Hahn, 25, was still riding his adrenaline wave as he addressed reporters shortly after Monday’s game. He kept breaking into a smile. His responses were short, like the moment hadn’t fully struck him yet.
No doubt it registered fully with manager Bob Melvin and the rest of the A’s front office. The A’s believe the 6-foot-5 Hahn is capable of big things as a major league starter. They got their first tangible proof of that Monday, as he held the Tigers to four hits and a walk. Not a single Tiger advanced as far as third base.
“I think he realizes now he has good stuff,” Melvin said of Hahn’s season-long development. “He just needs to throw it over the plate, and that allows him to get deep in games. When he has that good sinker, he has the ability to do just what he did today.”
Catcher Stephen Vogt has known Hahn since both were Rays’ farmhands. Hahn was a sixth-round draft pick of Tampa Bay in 2010 who, because of Tommy John surgery, didn’t even make his first minor league appearance until 2012. Vogt, five years older, was working his way up the ladder and trying to break through to the majors.
“To see the look on his face when Reddick caught that ball,” Vogt said. “I'm sure he was smiling a little bit bigger than me, but I couldn't stop smiling. I know how hard he works and I've known him a long time, so it's just really fun to watch him go out and throw the way he did and get his first complete game, especially on Memorial Day.”
Hahn (2-4) pitched as deep as six innings just once over his first six starts this season. He’s gone 6 1/3, 6 and 9, respectively, over his past three outings, never surrendering more than three earned runs. Hahn said he’s worked hard with pitching coach Curt Young and bullpen coach Scott Emerson on fastball command, spotting it to both sides of the plate. He mixed in his curve ball effectively Monday and showed his changeup occasionally.
Most impressively, Hahn didn’t let the roof cave when his teammates committed three errors behind him. That’s been the season-long pattern -- the A’s defense falters, and pitchers compound matters by giving up a big hit.
Twice after errors, Hahn coaxed double-play grounders to erase the extra base runner.
“Whenever you have an error, the last thing you want to see is the next pitch put in play and a run scores or something like that,” said third baseman Max Muncy, who committed two of Oakland’s errors. “Whenever your pitcher picks you up like that, it’s great.”
With the A’s taking a cross-country flight home from Tampa on Sunday night, then playing an afternoon game Monday, Hahn chose a good time to pick up his bullpen too, giving the relievers a rare day off.
He had yet to even check his cell phone for messages as he finished addressing reporters after Monday’s game. Surely the smile lasted most of the night.
“It's a great feeling,” Hahn said. “The ninth inning’s been foreign to me. So it's good to actually feel it.”