But Hammel was battered by the White Sox for 10 hits and five runs over 3 1/3 innings in an 11-3 loss, his shortest outing since April 30. The Royals fell three games behind the idle Twins for the second American League Wild Card spot.
Hammel was searching for answers afterward.
"I felt good out there," Hammel said. "Honestly, I think it was just one of those nights. A weird night. Everything I threw up there they either placed really well or hit it hard.
"It kind of was the tone of the whole game for us."
The White Sox nicked Hammel for two runs in the first and one in the second. But then Hammel got through the third, striking out the side.
In the fourth, Hammel made great pitches to Adam Engel and Jose Abreu, but both reached on swinging bunts, perfectly placed down the third-base line. He also walked two in the inning and his night was over.
"Very frustrating because you're making pitches there," Hammel said. "It's tough to deal with one swinging bunt, let alone two."
Hammel's stuff was excellent -- he struck out seven.
"It was the best my slider's been for a while," Hammel said. "But the guys told me I might have been tipping my pitches early with my glove so I tried to adjust."
But nothing seemed to work. And now the Royals are up against the wall, having to win the next two games to take the series.
"It was just one of those games we got to forget," Hammel said. "We got a quick turnaround [Tuesday]. And we're still very much in this thing. Just an off night."
Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter @FlannyMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.