OAKLAND -- A's right-hander Jesse Hahn was outstanding in his season debut, stringing together 6 2/3 impressive innings against the Astros in a 2-0 series-clinching victory at the Coliseum on Saturday afternoon.
Hahn held the Astros to three hits and two walks, striking out four in his first start with Oakland since July 1, 2015. The right-hander missed the second half of last year with a forearm strain and made his first four starts of the 2016 campaign with Triple-A Nashville following a disappointing spring showing.
"That's the best stuff I've had all year," Hahn said. "I was throwing strikes. That was the most important thing, strike one and being able to put hitters away. It helps a lot, it keeps my tempo there, keeps me working fast, and I'm at my best when I'm working fast."
"His velocity was up from what we saw last year," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "He had some nasty stuff and pounded the zone. We couldn't get the ball in the air. We never solved his sinking fastball."
The A's gave Hahn all the support he needed in the second inning, with Billy Burns delivering a two-out, two-run single off Astros starter Chris Devenski, who went five innings in his first Major League start.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Dominant return: Hahn made quick work of the Astros with an aggressive approach that helped him tally 18 first-pitch strikes from a pool of 23 batters faced. Six times, he recorded outs on the first pitch, needing 12 or fewer pitches in four of his innings. The right-hander routinely hit 96 mph with his fastball, occasionally even touching 97, to complement his signature curveball. He induced 12 ground-ball outs, compared to just one in the air.
"I guess when you're throwing 96, 97 mph, you feel pretty good about being aggressive," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "When you have good-hitting teams, a lineup that gets your attention, you have to take the confidence with you and be aggressive with it. Once you start picking and pitching around, now you got guys on base, and you have to make pitches. You force them to hit your pitch and get ahead in the count, and that's what's important against a team like that." More >
Needing the out: Devenski got two quick outs in the second inning and then fell apart, walking three and giving up two hits before getting the final out. He limited the damage to two runs. With an overall solid performance, Devenski will likely get another chance.
"The storyline is the one inning," Hinch said. "We had two outs, two strikes on [Yonder Alonso] and five hitters later, we're down. He recovered very well. He showed a lot of guts to get through five."
Doubling down: Three times, the A's induced key double plays, but none were more important than Evan Gattis' game-ending grounder induced by closer Ryan Madson, who loaded the bases following two walks and a bloop single to Colby Rasmus before ousting Gattis with the double play.
"Madson's got that little cutter, especially to a righty," Melvin said. "When he keeps the ball down and keeps it just on the corner and it's cutting a little bit, that's what you're going to get a lot of times. Rasmus wasn't his best matchup. Ryan has an idea of when he needs to pitch around guys, not give them something to hit. You certainly don't want to walk them. He's pretty aware of what he's doing out there and who can hurt him."
"I believe in my team, and I believe we'll be all right. We came close again today, just one or two hits away." -- Astros infielder Jose Altuve
WHAT'S NEXT Astros: Right-hander Doug Fister will make his first start against the A's since 2014 in Sunday's 3:05 p.m. CT finale, but he's familiar with them, having made 13 career starts against Oakland. Fister recorded his second straight quality start in his last outing but was saddled with his third consecutive loss.
Athletics: The A's will close out this three-game series against the Astros with lefty Rich Hill on the mound in Sunday's 1:05 p.m. PT finale. Hill has allowed just one earned run in his past two starts across 13 combined innings.