After the bullpen struggles that have plagued the Baltimore Orioles recently, they got exactly what they needed: a dominant performance by a starting pitcher and a drama-free final inning from a relief pitcher. Combine that with another good game by the offense and the result was a relatively stress free day and a good start to the four-game set against the Washington Nationals.
Jason Hammel has a long history of success against the Nationals, but the Orioles had their work cut out for them with tough lefty Gio Gonzalez on the mound for the Nationals. And the Nationals got on the board first with a solo run in the second inning. Adam LaRoche singled and then stole second base. Matt Wieters' throw beat him to the bag but second baseman Yamaico Navarro dropped the ball. That put him in scoring position to score on a double by Tyler Moore. That gave the Nats a 1-0 lead, but it was short lived.
After pitching three shutout innings despite two walks and a single, Gonzalez gave up a three spot in the fourth. He started the inning with a walk to Chris Davis, then gave up a single to Matt Wieters. Wieters does indeed seem to be heating up at the plate, so keep your fingers crossed that it won't be short lived. Davis came in to score on a one-out single by Navarro, then Hammel bunted both runners over. Yes, Hammel bunted with one out. Because this is the National League and isn't is so exciting!
The bunt did move both runners into scoring position so they could come in on a single by Markakis and make the score 3-1. Manny Machado followed that with a double that got Nick to third. It seemed like a play that a reasonably fast runner would have scored on easily, but lately it's becoming more and more apparent that Markakis not that. He looks like he's running under water this season. At any rate, Hardy grounded out to end the inning and the rally.
The Orioles scored another run in the fifth inning when Adam Jones, who had doubled, came in on a sacrifice fly by Wieters.
Meanwhile, Hammel was cruising. After Gio Gonzalez started the third inning with a double, Hammel retired nine straight batters and finished five innings with just 53 pitches and was making it look easy. He hit a speed bump in the sixth inning when Denard Span led off with a triple and came in to score on a single by Ryan Zimmerman. Ian Desmond also singled in the inning, but Hammel got out of it without allowing any more damage to the scoreboard.
Davis and Wieters started the top of the seventh with back-to-back singles and Davis then came in to score the O's fifth run on another RBI single by Navarro. Their sixth and final run came in the eighth inning. Machado reached base again (ho hum), this time on a single. After Hardy walked for the second time of the day (which is impressive for him), Jones singled to left field as Manny raced home to score.
Roger Bernadina doubled to start the bottom of the seventh but Hammel stranded him by getting the next three batters. He followed that with an easy eighth inning and with 107 pitches I wondered if he might be the first Oriole to pitch a complete game this season. He came out into the on deck circle in the top of the ninth, but was ultimately pinch hit for to end his day. And what a day it was: 8 IP, 8 H, 2 R, 0 BB, 8 K. He threw 107 pitches, 77 for strikes. And he dropped his ERA from 5.37 to 4.98. It was Hammel's second straight good start and hopefully that means he's getting into a groove.
Darren O'Day came in to pitch the ninth inning for the Orioles and he looked like vintage O'Day. The Nats flailed their bats at his wicked sidearm pitches and he retired them 1-2-3 on 11 pitches.
O's win! Tomorrow is the second day of Gausmas. Gametime is 7:05 p.m.