If there was one goal for Jason Hammel yesterday (aside from putting the Baltimore Orioles in a position to win), it was pitching deep into the game against Washington. The O’s had grown tired of simply getting “quality starts” and then having to resort to a tired bullpen. Hammel did just that yesterday, as the Orioles defeated Washington 6-2. Hammel’s line: 8 IP, 8 H, 2 R, 0 BB, 8 K. In total he threw 107 pitches, and he economized very well. Ironically Hammel also struck out eight batters, which would in general drive your pitch count up higher. But Washington hitters came up swinging against Hammel, and that helped him to record a lot of first and second pitch outs as well.
One of the key plays of the game is something that’s barely a footnote in the game summary. With Washington leading 1-0 in the last of the third, pitcher Gio Gonzalez lined a double to center. When the pitcher leads off an inning and gets himself into scoring position right away, you really have to buckle down and stay out of a big inning. Hammel managed to get Denard Span to line out to center, and then Steve Lombardozzi (a Baltimore-area native) sent a grounder to J.J. Hardy. Gio Gonzalez made an unforced mistake by running on a ball hit to his right, and Hardy nailed him at third base which erased the lead runner. Ryan Zimmerman popped out to Manny Machado at third to end the threat.
That seemed to energize Oriole bats, which came alive in the top of the fourth following a Chris Davis walk. Matt Wieters singled to right, and Davis ended up at third after tagging up at second on a Steve Pearce flyout. Yamaico Navarro‘s RBI-single scored Davis and tied the game at one. It’s the small things that win games sometimes, and Davis’ alert base running (in tagging up at second) ended up netting the Orioles a run. Being in a National League park Jason Hammel had to pick up a bat and hit, which to me is an added bonus of interleague play. Why shouldn’t pitchers have to swing the lumber? With two strikes on him Hammel got a bunt down in play, which advanced both Wieters and Navarro into scoring position. Nick Markakis lined an RBI-single to center, and the Orioles seized the lead at 3-1. If this were hockey you could give an assist to Jason Hammel for those two runs in the wake of his sacrifice bunt. I see no reason why pitchers shouldn’t have to bat, and I’d be in favor of ending the DH all together. Pitchers will never be the best of hitters, however it’s small things such as bunting runners over that can make big differences in games. Hammel was able to do something for his own cause, and that says something. And occasionally they might get a hit or even homer in a game, which is even better!
The Orioles would manufacture two more runs in the game as Adam Jones would double in the fifth and later score on a Wieters sac fly, and Navarro would net another RBI-single in the seventh (scoring Davis). The Orioles put forth a very balanced offense yesterday afternoon, which in a way was
surprising given that Nate McLouth was on the bench (against the southpaw Gonzalez) and they couldn’t use a DH. As great as Hammel was in this game, part of how the Orioles won was effectively knocking Gonzalez out early. He ended up pitching 5.2 innings, but that’s due to the fact that manager Davey Johnson sent him back out in the sixth inning with a very high pitch count after he had missed his spots for two innings. While he didn’t exactly shut the Orioles down, I felt that Gonzalez was really hitting his spots well in the first three innings. But eventually the Orioles figured him out, and that made a world of difference in the game. Hammel was pulled back from the on-deck circle when the pitcher’s spot came up in the top of the ninth (in favor of pinch-hitter Alexi Casilla), and Darren O’Day sent Washington down 1-2-3 in the last of the inning to close out the game.
Make no mistake about the fact that this was a HUGE win for an Orioles team that was reeling after Sunday’s walk off loss in which they surrendered four runs in the last of the ninth. You have to “keep grinding,” as Buck Showalter always says, and a win like this hopefully erases the memory of that stinging loss. The fact that Hammel pitched so well an so deep into the game is a glaring benefit as well, and that gave the likes of Brian Matusz, Jim Johnson, et al, some much needed rest. Darren O’Day also had a very easy ninth inning (11 pitches), so odds are he would be available tonight if needed.
The series in Washington wraps up tonight as the O’s will get their second look at Kevin Gausman at the big league level. I would encourage Orioles fans to make the trek down to DC for tonight’s game once again, as while this is far from a home game it provides a chance to see Gausman locally in the region. Washington is having to call up a prospect from double-A to pitch this game after Ross Detweiler was sent to the DL, so the Orioles will face 25-year old Nate Karns. Ironically, one week ago local fans would have in theory had the opportunity to see this exact same pitching matchup in double-A, had Bowie taken on Harrisonburg. How quickly things change!