SEATTLE — The instinct following Jack Hannahan's second start in the No. 2 spot in the lineup might be to assume that he's once again on the upswing. The A's have seen such a trend a few times this season, and nothing would seem to indicate things are on the rise than a two-homer afternoon against Felix Hernandez.
Problem is, as Hannahan acknowledged afterward, there have been just as many down slides, too. Thus, Hannahan's first career multihomer game Sunday afternoon at Safeco Field brought with it no grand assessments.
What it did bring was a couple of moments worth trumpeting in an 8-4 beating by the Seattle Mariners. The A's and Mariners split a four-game series.
And considering their plight — far out of the race with five weeks to play — they need all feel-good moments they can get.
This latest loss showed why. Starter Dan Meyer let the early 2-0 lead slip away in the third inning, primarily because he issued back-to-back walks to start the inning. Miguel Cairo then followed with a drive that skidded past right fielder Emil Brown on the wet grass for a triple.
Two innings later, Kenji Johjima homered to get back the run the A's gained on Rob Bowen's solo homer off Hernandez, and one inning after that, A's reliever Kirk Saarloos served up a three-run home run to Jose Lopez to make things academic.
As for Hannahan, he followed his first- and third-inning shots off the Mariners ace — King Felix as he's known — with a weak groundout to Hernandez and a strikeout against reliever Cesar Jimenez. In a sense, those at-bats helped encapsulate his whole season — occasional flashes followed by not a whole lot.
"That's been the problem. It's been too up and down," Hannahan said. "That's the difference between major league hitters who've established themselves and other guys. The guys who are established stay consistent all year. They eliminate those ups and downs."
Unfortunately for the A's, Hannahan has yet to show the ability to do the same. He hit .206 April, but followed with a .253 May. Then came a miserable June (.189), a very good July (.305), and thus far a dog of an August (.119) that has featured 18 strikeouts in his past 21 games.
In all, his .225 average is the second lowest in the American League, and his seven homers and 39 RBI don't inspire memories of even the most mediocre third baseman.
Still, he remains an interesting piece in the A's puzzle, because enough people in the A's organization have said privately they still believe Hannahan can harness his sufficient talent. The two home runs he hit against Hernandez seemed to be an example of that.
"He's getting better," hitting coach Ty Van Burkleo said. "I know his numbers are not where they need to be, but it takes time to take your swing adjustments into a game. But he's starting to do that, and I think you're gonna start to see some good things."
Van Burkleo said he was especially pleased with Hannahan's first home run, a high fastball that tailed inside. Typically, it's been a pitch Hannahan has swung through for most of the season, but Van Burkleo said Hannahan has cut down a bit on a loop in his swing and that made the difference.
"I've worked hard with Ty to try to keep it simple," Hannahan said. " ... I've tried to tone it down mentally a little bit. I'm trying to stay relaxed up there more, and let the hands do the work instead of having my entire body move. I'm trying to make sure I keep that mind-set, and again, just try to be consistent with it."
He took a small step in that direction Sunday. But in what is now a lost season, any positive step is all the A's are looking for.
Contact Rick Hurd at email@example.com.