BALTIMORE — Across baseball circles, the Baltimore Orioles’ acquisition of right-hander Jason Hammel was seen as a pre-spring training snoozer.
But over his first four starts in a Baltimore uniform, Hammel has made the majors take notice.
Hammel — who came to Baltimore with a career 4.99 ERA as part of the trade that sent No. 1 starter Jeremy Guthrie to Colorado on Feb. 6 — has shown to be a much different pitcher so far as an Oriole. He continued his sparkling start on Wednesday night, throwing seven scoreless innings against a Blue Jays lineup that has scored the fourth-most runs in the American League.
The 29-year-old right hander danced mid-90s two-seam fastballs through the strike zone and missed Toronto bats all night, leading the Orioles to a 3-0 win over the Jays in front of an announced crowd of 10,415 at Camden Yards, the smallest crowd since the 2010 season.
With the win, the Orioles’ first shutout victory since Sept. 9, 2011, Baltimore (11-7) held on to a share of first place in the AL East, knocking Toronto (10-8) down a notch with Baltimore’s third-straight overall win and fourth win over the Jays in five contests this season. The Orioles sealed their second series win season over Toronto this season, the first time they’ve done that since 2009.
Hammel, who ran his career mark against Toronto to 4-0, bedeviled the Jays by holding Toronto to four hits over seven innings and lowering his season ERA to 1.73. Hammel also struck out seven and walked just one, and has 17 strikeouts in his past 13 innings. In each of his four starts this season, he’s allowed two runs or fewer runs.
“I’ve worked hard on my delivery to make sure I can repeat a pitch,” Hammel said. “Every time you throw a pitch it should look the same, just a different finger placement, obviously, for the pitches. If you can make everything look the same, you are going to get a lot of swings — four-seam, two-seam, slider, all should be coming off the same plane. I think we are doing that really well right now.”
Hammel has been dazzling at home. In his first home start as an Oriole in the third game of the season, Hammel took a no-hitter into the eighth inning against the Twins. In two home starts, Hammel has allowed just one run in 15 innings for a 0.60 ERA.
“He doesn’t get too far ahead of himself,” Orioles Manager Buck Showalter said. “It’s kind of like being on the 16th hole and thinking about the 17th and 18th hole. He’s dwelling on what he’s playing. If something happens that means he’s got to face another hitter, he goes and gets it. I was hoping to get five or six out of him, and all of a sudden he got into the seventh inning for us, which really shortened the workload in the ‘pen.”
Orioles right-handed reliever Matt Lindstrom, the other piece the Orioles acquired in the Guthrie trade, threw a perfect eighth inning, but gave the kudos to his fellow former Rockie.
“When we came over together, I knew what kind of pitcher the Orioles were getting in him,” Lindstrom said. “He’s mixing his pitches well, and what I’m also seeing is Jason mixing in his two-seam fastball and utilizing it a lot more in counts where hitters thing they’re getting a four-seamer, and it’s devastating. I’m his catch partner every day, so I think we’re helping each other every day.”
The Orioles hit a pair of solo homers off tough-luck Blue Jays starter Kyle Drabek — Wilson Betemit’s shot to straight-away center in the second and Chris Davis’ opposite-field bomb to left in the fourth.