Last night’s 3-2 loss in Kansas City has left a lot of Baltimore Orioles fans wondering if the team has a problem with Jason Hammel. I would submit that they do not – at the moment. One would be hard-pressed to suggest that Hammel had an easy outing last in last night’s game; Hammel’s line: 6.0 IP, 10 H, 3 R, 4 BB, 4 K. It goes down as a quality start, but Hammel hasn’t recorded a win since the end of May. However here’s why I wouldn’t be concerned about Hammel – for now: he battled. That might not mean much in a losing effort, however I feel that he minimized the damage very well in last night’s game. Did he fall behind a lot of hitters? Yes. Did he allow more base runners than the Orioles would have liked? Yes. Does he need to work on his control and on throwing strike one in his next side session? ABSOLUTELY. But he battled, and ultimately he kept the team within striking range.
Kansas City took a 1-0 lead in the first inning when Bret Butler grounded into a double-play with the bases loaded, which scored Commissioner Gordon. (Yes folks, I recognize that his name is Alex Gordon; as a DC Comics fan I couldn’t resist throwing a Batman reference in there!) Kansas City ran their lead to 2-0 in the second on a Chris Getz RBI-single. However the Birds battled back; in the top of the third Manny Machado homered to centerfield, which cut Kansas City’s lead in half. But in this pitchers’ duel the Birds couldn’t really mount a rally (until the end that is). Former Oriole Bruce Chen shut down the O’s aside from the Machado home run. In monitoring my twitter feed throughout the game, many fans wondered how the Orioles’ offense could be shut down by a journeyman. That’s baseball folks. Some days you win, some days you lose, and some days it rains. As Buck Showalter often says, sometimes you just have to tip your cap.
Following Mike Moustakas‘ RBI-double in the third, pitching coach Rick Adair came out and talked to Hammel. Whatever he said really seemed to work, as Hammel started mowing hitters down. MASN’s Gary Thorne even wondered aloud if Adair might have said that Hammel was going to be sent down to Norfolk last night if he didn’t get it together. This is why I don’t think that Orioles fans have too much to worry about in terms of Jason Hammel. I won’t deny that he’s struggling in his starts right now, nor that he probably needs to improve if he’s going to remain in the rotation. In fact, with next Monday being an off day perhaps the Orioles have an opportunity to skip Hammel in the rotation so as to give him some extra side work. But what I saw last night was a pitcher who granted had suddenly lost some of his tools, but also one that was willing to battle to try to get them back.
And as I said, Hammel did keep the Orioles within striking distance. Granted their offense struggled last night, but overall with how they’ve been hitting the ball two runs is something that can easily be made up. Also worth mentioning is the effort of reliever T.J. McFarland, who bridged the gap after Hammel’s outing last night. Nick Markakis led off the ninth inning with a single, which was followed up with Adam Jones‘ RBI-triple. That brought the Orioles to within 3-2 with the tying run on third and nobody out. Unfortunately for the Birds, Kansas City recorded three consecutive outs to end the game with Jones standing on third base.
The Orioles will continue the series in Kansas City tonight, as Wei-Yin Chen faces Ervin Santana. While New York came back to beat Texas last night, Boston also beat Tampa so the O’s didn’t lose any ground to the Rays in the standings. They currently stand in the second wild card spot in the American League, but they continue nipping at the heels of those in front of them.