Royals’ Hammel hopes to continue dominant stretch Saturday against Athletics

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kansas City Royals right-hander Jason Hammel, who starts Saturday against the Oakland Athletics, has gone from mediocrity to pitching extremely well.

In his past two starts, Hammel is 2-0 with a 0.73 ERA, allowing one earned run in 12.1 innings in victories over Texas and St. Louis. He struck out 16 and walked two in those starts.

In his previous four starts, Hammel went 0-3 with a 10.73 ERA, giving up 25 earned runs on 34 hits, including six home runs, in 21 innings against Boston, Detroit, Cleveland and Tampa Bay. He walked six and struck out 10.

What has Hammel changed?

“Nothing,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “It’s the ebb and flow of baseball. You have this one guy get hot for a week and then cold for a week when he’s hitting. It’s just the game.

“He got hot. He’s commanding pitches extremely well, especially his fastball and his slider. He’s keeping his slider down and he’s not missing spots. When you look at the big number, he’s gotten hurt over the course of this year on probably maybe two or three times in a game and it cost him. It wasn’t like he was giving up line drives or walks. You could boil it down to one or two pitches that ended up costing him the game.

“What he’s done here lately — and it’s not anything he’s trying to do because he tries to do it each time he steps on the mound — is he’s just commanding the ball and just executing his pitches extremely well.”

Hammel went 0-8 with a 7.28 ERA, surrendering 58 earned runs in 71.2 innings, in a 13-start winless streak before beating the Cardinals on May 22.

Overall this season, Hammel is 2-5 with a 5.23 ERA in 11 starts. He is winless in his last six starts at home, dating to Aug. 20, 2017, and four starts this season. He is 0-3 with a 4.74 ERA this year at Kauffman Stadium and the Royals could use some distance after Ian Kennedy lasted three innings in Friday’s 16-0 loss.

Hammel is 4-2 with a 4.67 ERA in nine career outings, five of them starts, against Oakland. He posted a 6.75 ERA in starts last year against the A’s.

Oakland has scored 23 runs in its last two games after Dustin Fowler and Matt Chapman each homered twice Friday.

The Athletics will counter with right-hander Trevor Cahill, who pitched for the Royals over the second half of last season. Cahill was acquired from the San Diego Padres on July 24 and had an 8.22 ERA in 10 appearances, including three starts, with no decisions.

Cahill is 1-2 with a 2.25 ERA this year with Oakland. He had a no-decision in his last start, an Athletics 1-0 loss to Tampa Bay in which he allowed four hits over 8.0 innings in a game Oakland lost in 13 innings. The A’s signed him as a free agent on March 19.

Cahill last started against Kansas City on June 14, 2011 while with the A’s. In six career appearances against the Royals, five of them starts, Cahill is 3-2 with a 4.74 ERA.

Oakland infielder Marcus Semien came off the paternity list Friday. He had been the only Oakland player to start every game before then. He entered in the ninth at shortstop in his first game back, but likely will be in the lineup Saturday.