After a poor effort against the Mets in his last start , Jeff Samardzija was ready to go back to the drawing board – and beyond.
A’s pitching coach Curt Young reeled him in.
“After that last start I wanted to overhaul a lot of things,” Samardzija said. “Curt kind of brought me back.”
The two did some minor tinkering, and the result was eight dominant innings from Samardzija on Monday in the A’s 8-2 victory over the Houston Astros, which, coupled with the Los Angeles Angels’ defeat, pulled the A’s back into a first-place tie.
Oakland broke it open with five runs in the ninth off of Houston’s bullpen, but this was a tight contest throughout. The sight of Samardzija mowing through an opposing lineup had to be heartening for manager Bob Melvin after Samardzija allowed seven runs in 3 2/3 innings against New York, his ERA swelling to 4.07 since joining the A’s.
“Really aggressive today, better split,” Melvin said of his right-hander. “Mixed in the slider and split more, but he had a really good fastball when he needed it. It looked like he spotted it up, down, in and out. He had good command of it, good velocity too. We saw some 97’s.”
Samardzija said the adjustments he made with Young paid dividends.
“We changed a little bit with my hands, put them a little closer to my body and really worked on my split in between the start,” he said. “With those two things combined, it got me back in the zone, and Dino (Derek Norris) did a heck of a job back there calling the game.”
Samardzija scattered six hits and tied his season high with 10 strikeouts. He took a shutout into the eighth before A’s killer Chris Carter connected for a two-run homer to cut Oakland’s lead to 3-2. But the A’s received some terrific charity in the form of four consecutive walks from Astros reliever Tony Sipp. Then Josh Donaldson (3-for-4, 3 RBI) added a two-run double as the A’s struck for five runs total.
It’s important that this series in Houston doesn’t slip through the cracks on the A’s. Four more games against the Angels await beginning Thursday, but the A’s don’t want to lose ground to Los Angeles and make their task more difficult before they even arrive in Anaheim.
They took care of business Monday, and now an important sequence awaits involving their rotation. Jason Hammel, who has allowed nine home runs in seven starts (32 innings) since coming over with Samardzija from the Cubs, takes the mound Tuesday. Then Drew Pomeranz will be called up from Triple-A Sacramento to make a spot start Wednesday. Can they hold down the fort and give the A’s a chance for victory in those two games?
That scenario will play itself out, but Samardzija provided Melvin a reason to smile Monday. As the right-hander learned, the smallest adjustments can make a big difference.