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OAK@SF: Hammel collects his first strikeout with A's

With his high-profile July acquisitions, A's general manager Billy Beane has gone "all in" with his pursuit of bringing a World Series title back to Oakland in 2014. So, the pressure's on.

That especially applies to the A's starter Tuesday night, Jason Hammel. He is 0-4 with a 9.53 ERA in four starts with Oakland, his most recent one resulting in a 4 1/3-inning, eight-run outing in Houston.

"Obviously, right now, it doesn't look too good, but it's a long season. I've been through this before," Hammel said after that outing. "I got to continue to have confidence in myself and continue to do what I've done before. This is nothing new to me. I've been through this before."

Manager Bob Melvin realizes the early return on Hammel has been a far cry from what they anticipated, but given Hammel's track record, Melvin hasn't exactly reached DEFCON status with his right-handed starter.

"I think it's probably a feel thing, because his bullpens, from what I understand, have been good," Melvin said Monday. "For a guy that's been so successful until he got here, for me it's probably a feel thing. I haven't talked to him about it, but my feeling is that all he needs is a good game under his belt and then he'll be off to the races."

He'll be opposed by left-hander Drew Smyly, who'll be making his Rays debut after being acquired by Tampa Bay in the Trade Deadline deal that sent ace David Price to the Tigers.

Manager Joe Maddon wants to make absolutely sure the lefty's mind is not overflowing with information. Maddon has given him a simple game plan with some gentle suggestions, but other than that, Smyly will be on his own.

"A couple suggestions we have, we've already given him for [Tuesday]. They're extremely simple," Maddon said before Monday's series opener at the Coliseum. "These are the couple suggestions we have for you to think about, and then if you want to utilize them, fine."

One thing Maddon certainly did not suggest: for Smyly to try to be Price.

"We want him to be himself," Maddon said. "He's been pitching well. We don't want to get in his way right now."

"You're not going to replace David Price," said Smyly. "The Rays made the trade, they wanted me, so I'm going to do the best I can and try to learn from them and get better every game. I'm just doing me."

Smyly was 6-9 this year with a 3.93 ERA in 21 appearances (18 starts) for Detroit before being traded in a three-team deal. He has logged 105 1/3 innings, and Maddon has received no information about any innings restrictions.

A's: Crisp returns
Help is on the way for a slumping offense.

Coco Crisp, who missed seven consecutive games because of a neck ailment, was back on the field off the bench Monday night against the Rays.

"More than anything, we're looking forward to getting him in the lineup" Melvin said. "I know he's excited about getting back in there."

He drew a pinch-hit walk in the seventh inning, stayed in defensively at center field and struck out in his only other plate appearance in the ninth.

The A's entered the day 3-4 with a .224 average in their last week of games without Crisp, whose .373 on-base percentage had been sorely missed.

Rays: Homecoming for Balfour
For three days, Balfour Rage is back at the Coliseum.

Grant Balfour saved 64 games during his three-year tenure in Oakland, blossoming into the A's closer for back-to-back division-winning teams in 2012 and '13. The A's elected to go a different route this season, but the right-hander has nothing but love -- not rage -- for the Oakland players and fans.

"A lot of good memories, no doubt," Balfour said Monday before the opener of a three-game set. "It's exciting to come back to a place where you played and you had success. We did some good things, made it exciting, and brought back the winning baseball to Oakland."

The Coliseum crowd embraced Balfour's fiery style -- and his 2.53 ERA from 2011-13 didn't hurt.

"They were great to me," he said. "I couldn't ask for anything more of those guys. I've got to thank them all for the way they took me in and the way they made me feel."

This season has gone less smoothly for Balfour, who lost his closer's job in June and has a 4.93 ERA in 44 appearances. He surrendered the game-winning run in the A's 3-2, 10-inning victory Monday night.

Worth noting
• The current A's roster features six former Rays players, prompting Maddon to refer to the group on Monday as the "Ra-A's."

Pitchers Jason Hammel and Scott Kazmir, catchers John Jaso and Stephen Vogt, and outfielders Sam Fuld and Jonny Gomes all spent time in Tampa before coming to Oakland.

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