Jason Hammel has done just enough to win a game during his share of slugfests this season. That's how a pitcher can come into a game with a 7-3 record despite a 5.43 ERA. Sooner or later, the baseball gods will have their due. It is fitting that Hammel's record took a hit in a pitcher's duel where he recorded a strong outing. He did enough to win on most nights, with only one mistake pitch to Desmond Jennings leading to the Rays scoring two runs.
There are games where the aggression of Orioles batters serves them well. Today was not one of those games. Archer only threw 84 pitches in his seven innings, helped along to a quick outing by a number of first-pitch outs. It was a BABIP kind of day for Archer, who only struck out two batters in the seven innings, but out of all of the balls that ended up in play, only two went for hits.
The lone run was scored by Chris Dickerson, who in the third inning worked one of two walks Archer would issue, then took second on a wild pitch. He'd ultimately score on a single by Manny Machado. There was only one other Orioles hit on the day: a two-out double by Ryan Flaherty in the fifth inning. They did not have another runner in scoring position in the game's final four innings.
Hammel did not hit cruise control in the way Archer did. He was going along scattering hits until the start of the seventh inning, when James Loney (who has great career numbers off Hammel) led off with a single, scoring when Jennings hit his home run to straightaway center. The Rays wouldn't need any more runs for the day.
In 6.2 IP, Hammel gave up six hits and two walks, with only the two earned runs. Most days, that gets you a win. Some days, you run into one of the numerous talented young Rays pitchers who is firing on all cylinders. Unfortunately for Hammel and the Orioles, it was the latter kind of day. Not much you can do except pick up and try again tomorrow.
With the loss, the Orioles are now only a half-game ahead of the Rays for third place in the American League East. This is the only AL division with more than two teams that are playing above .500 baseball. It's the only division in MLB with four teams playing above .500 baseball. There are no easy wins in this division.
The middle game of the series features the fourth day of Gausmas as Kevin Gausman will take on Jeremy Hellickson in a 4:10 game. Hellickson is the weak link in the Rays rotation, sporting a 5.59 ERA. With Matt Moore coming on Sunday, this is the game to win to stave off a sweep. Whether the Orioles can is another story entirely. Again: there are no easy wins. Perhaps tomorrow will be a better day.