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  • Apr

    No Looking Back. Hammel plays stopper. Orioles win 7-to-2

    Written by Mike Laws

    No looking back

    Hammel plays stopper; offense bursts out the gate

    Orioles 7, Seattle 2


    Here’s an effective playbook to avoid getting strung out on losses, courtesy of the loaded-for-bear top half of the Oriole offense: Have a simply en-fuego Nate McLouth greet an ephebic Seattle starter with a no-doubter to right on the fourth pitch of the ballgame. Follow this up with a Manny Machado double to left on the first pitch he sees, and let Machado advance to third and then score on a pair of wild pitches. Let Nick Markakis dig himself out of an 0-2 hole to work the count full before singling to right field. Don’t become in any way discouraged by a strikeout of Adam Jones. Have Chris Davis take another in what’s shaping up to be a season full of bases-on-balls. Then let Matt Wieters collect two more RBIs on a double to right, plating both Markakis and a hard-charging Davis. In this fashion you’ll have staked your staff ace to a four-run lead before he ever toes the rubber.


    And after that, well, that’s a matter for some friendly bullet points:


    • I suppose we’ll start with Jason Hammel, with respect to whom there was good news and bad. The bad was that he never, in his five-plus frames of work, enjoyed a truly easy, three-up-three-down-type inning; also that he occasionally, and somewhat inexplicably, battled his command. The good news? Hammel’s enough of a battler for it largely not to have mattered. The two hits he coughed up in the Seattle first, both with two down, came pretty much the same way he’d recorded those outs: that is, on the ground, with one of them never even leaving the infield. True to form, Hammel escaped trouble with a subsequent groundball out off the bat of Jason Bay. He’d started all five hitters he faced with a called strike. So far, so good, eh? 


    • Well, sure, but in each of his next three innings he’d issue a free pass — a troubling staff-wide tendency of which the Orioles are keenly, painfully aware. But again, Hammel was able to muster his good stuff (namely that tailing two-seamer and his slider, which represented a goodly percentage of his offerings tonight), jumping out ahead of Mariners hitters and inducing meekly hit outs. In the second he’d strand a leadoff double and two-out walk, fanning big Michael Saunders to retire the side. In the third he’d erase a four-pitch walk of Kendrys Morales by way of a 5-4-3 double play. In the fourth it was a one-out walk to Justin Smoak, and a fielder’s choice/Kelly Shoppach strikeout to keep the M’s off the board. And in the fifth Hammel would whiff Morales, following a two-out single from Kyle Seager, to put himself in position for the W.


    • Though, sadly, that’d be the last out Hammel would record. Michael Morse led off the sixth with a long fly ball to right that even the cavernous Safeco Field couldn’t hold. Bay reached on another of those pesky infield hits. And following a third consecutive base-knock — a single from Smoak — Hammel’s outing was at an end. (What is it with the sixth inning, anyway? It’s been the bane of Miguel Gonzalez’s season; now it’s eating up Hammel, too?) Spelling the Oriole starter, Tommy Hunter promptly surrendered a single to Dustin Ackley, loading the bases with still nobody out. Uh-oh. Big inning in the offing, right? Wrong! Hunter rallied to ground Shoppach into a fielder’s choice, but the run it pushed across would be the M’s last, as Hunter coaxed his next Seattle batsman, light-hitting shortstop Brendan Ryan, into an easy-as-pie 6-4-3 twin-killing.


    • Of course, by that point the O’s had added a couple insurance runs, and would post another following Hammel’s exit. And, encouragingly, it was now the bottom half of the order doing the damage. In the sixth it’d been J.J. Hardy, who singled, and Ryan Flaherty, who doubled (on a curveball, no less! though it ought to be added that it was a badly hanging curve, and that Saunders probably should’ve caught the ball; but whatever), followed by Chris Dickerson’s second bloop base hit of the night, a dump-job off the handle of the bat and into center field, good for cashing in on both runners. In the seventh it was Davis and Wieters who kicked things off with singles, sure, but Hardy who plated Davis with a single of his own, making it 7-2, Birds …


    • … a scoreline that’d hold up for the final tally. Exorcising whatever ’pen-plaguing succubus it was that showed up in Oakland on Sunday, Troy Patton came on in relief of Hunter in the seventh, recording a pair of outs before permitting a Morales single, at which point it was Darren O’Day’s turn to relieve Patton; the side-armer did so with aplomb, ringing up Morse to retire the side. After O’Day likewise found himself in a spot of trouble in the eighth, dispatching the first two Mariner hitters of the frame before yielding a single to Ackley-kid and hitting Shoppach(’s jersey) with a pitch, it was Brian Matusz’s turn. Exorcising some demons of his own — it was pinch hitter Raul Ibanez whom Matusz was called upon to face, Ibanez being the batter who in last year’s ALDS … well, you remember what happened — Matusz force-fed Ibanez a diet of breaking pitches, jumping ahead of the ancient Mariner and eventually inducing a foul pop to end the threat. Brian proceeded to work a scoreless ninth, fanning Saunders and Seager and grounding Morales out to short — the only one-two-three inning all night — and this one was all over but the cryin’. 7-2, O’s, is your final, setting up the rubber match Wednesday night.



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