With their offense scuffling, the Orioles likely will need another strong effort from the right-hander Friday night when they face the Nationals in the opener of this three-game Beltway Series.
Washington (40-27) is the surprise leader in the NL East, as it tries to eventually reach the playoffs for just the second time in franchise history and first since 1981 as the Montreal Expos.
While the Nationals' success has been unexpected, the same could be said for Hammel (7-2, 2.87 ERA) after he was acquired by Baltimore (39-30) in a three-player trade with Colorado in the offseason.
He's among the AL leaders in ERA and has already matched his win total from last season.
Hammel had the best performance of his career in Saturday's 5-0 win at Atlanta. He carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning and finished with a one-hitter and eight strikeouts in his second career complete game and first shutout in seven major league seasons.
"It used to be, for me, too many things were going on," Hammel told the team's official website. "I was worried about the what ifs and what might happen instead of going hitter to hitter and that's what I was able to do. It's not rocket science."
Hammel is 4-0 with a 3.99 ERA in six starts against the Nationals, allowing four runs over 5 1-3 innings of a 6-5 victory May 19.
He may need to be better than that since the Orioles are hitting .159 with one homer and 12 runs during a 2-4 stretch. They're 0 for 17 with runners in scoring position in four games since Hammel's last start.
Baltimore batted .130 while being swept in a three-game series by the New York Mets , losing the finale 4-3 Wednesday after getting blanked in the first two contests.
"I know our guys are frustrated," manager Buck Showalter said. "We've beaten some very good pitchers and to get where we want to go, we're going to (have to find a way to keep doing that)."
The Orioles will be in for another test against the Nationals and their major league-leading 3.00 ERA.
Jordan Zimmermann (3-5, 2.92) has been a big part of Washington's strong staff but he's 0-1 in his past four starts. The right-hander has a 1.62 ERA in five road interleague outings, but just an 0-2 record to show for it since he's been backed by an average of 2.16 runs. That includes a loss in his only visit to Baltimore on May 22, 2011, when he yielded two runs and four hits in 6 1-3 innings of a 2-1 defeat.
Zimmermann allowed three runs - two earned - and five hits with six strikeouts in six innings, while his teammates committed two errors and provided two runs of support in a 5-3, 14-inning loss to the New York Yankees on Saturday.
The Nationals are trying to build on Thursday's 5-2 win over Tampa Bay, taking two of three from the Rays to improve to 9-6 in interleague play this season.
Bryce Harper was 4 for 12 with two RBIs against the Orioles in May, but is 5 for 28 in the past seven games overall.
|June 17, 2012||Ian Desmond||Day-to-Day||Oblique soreness|
|June 11, 2012||Roger Bernadina||Day-to-Day||Left game - strained right hamstring|
|June 10, 2012||Bryce Harper||Day-to-Day||Sore back|
|June 06, 2012||Henry Rodriguez||15-Day DL||Strained right index finger|
|May 30, 2012||Carlos Maldonado||15-Day DL||Lower back strain|
|May 27, 2012||Chad Tracy||15-Day DL||Groin soreness|
|June 13, 2012||Brian Matusz||Day-to-Day||Bruised nose|
|June 13, 2012||Endy Chavez||15-Day DL||Strained right hamstring|
|June 12, 2012||Endy Chavez||Day-to-Day||Left game - Strained right hamstring|
|June 07, 2012||Adam Jones||Day-to-Day||Left game - right wrist soreness|
|June 05, 2012||Wilson Betemit||Day-to-Day||Illness|
|May 30, 2012||Nick Markakis||15-Day DL||Broken hamate bone, right wrist|
BALTIMORE (AP) -- It would have taken quite a performance for Jason Hammel to improve upon his previous start, so the Baltimore Orioles right-hander happily settled for going deep into the game and earning another victory.
Hammel pitched eight innings of five-hit ball and had a career high-tying 10 strikeouts to lead the Orioles past the Washington Nationals 2-1 on Friday night.
Coming off a one-hit shutout against Atlanta, Hammel (8-2) allowed an unearned run in improving to 5-0 lifetime against Washington. He didn't top his outing against the Braves, but at least he built on it.
"It can't really get much better than that for me," Hammel said of his gem in Atlanta. "Obviously a no-hitter or a perfect game, but that didn't happen. I did basically the same thing, just come at them with two-seamers, aggressive in the zone, make them swing and put it in play."
Hammel, who did not issue a walk, has gone 19 straight innings without giving up an earned run.
"His outings the last two times out, and really most of the year, have been fun to watch," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "When you have command of that many pitches in your repertoire and you put him and (catcher Matt) Wieters on the same team, you like your chances. And he probably should have had eight shutout innings. He was outstanding."
Showalter removed Hammel after 96 pitches, ruining his chance to become the first Oriole to throw two straight complete games since Sidney Ponson in May 2004.
"I was surprised I didn't go back out in the ninth," Hammel said.
Jim Johnson got three outs for his 21st save.
"Hammel's leaking a little oil there toward the end," Showalter said. "You feel a lot more confident about turning a game over to someone like (Johnson)."
Mark Reynolds homered, and J.J. Hardy contributed offensively and defensively in helping Baltimore end a three-game losing streak.
Hammel outpitched Washington's Ryan Zimmermann (3-6), who allowed two runs and eight hits over seven innings. Zimmerman is 0-2 in his last five starts since May 22.
"He's pitched great, we just haven't been scoring for him," Nationals manager Davey Johnson said. "We hit the ball hard today with runners on, got zilch."
Baltimore took a 2-1 lead in the fifth on a two-out RBI double by Hardy, who stepped to the plate mired in a 1-for-25 slump.
In the Washington seventh, with two on and two outs, Hardy leaped high to snare Jesus Flores ' liner to shortstop.
"I jumped as high as I could and it just went into my mitt," said Hardy, who made a similar catch on Steve Lombardozzi 's hard-hit ball in the eighth.
Davey Johnson last watched a game in the dugout at Camden Yards in 1997, when he guided the Orioles to the AL East title. He was fired after the season by owner Peter Angelos, and Baltimore hasn't had a winning season since.
"Managers are hired to get fired. All the times I was here were fun times for me," Johnson said before the game. "I really enjoyed playing here and learning the game of baseball here. It was fun to come back and manage in the town where I had played in. Played in a bunch of World Series here. My only regret was that I didn't get to manage the team in a World Series here. All my memories of Baltimore and baseball are nothing but great memories."
After the start was delayed 61 minutes by the threat of rain, Hammel pitched a perfect first inning and struck out the side in the second around a double by Michael Morse .
In the bottom of the second, Reynolds lined a 1-1 fastball into the seats in left to end an 0-for-11 skid.
It was one of precious few mistakes by Zimmermann, but it proved costly.
`I just try to keep the team in it as long as I can and stay out there as long as I can and save the bullpen," he said. "I didn't have my best stuff tonight, but it was good enough to get through seven."
Washington tied it in the fifth. Ian Desmond singled, rounded second base and took off for third on a groundout and scored on Reynolds' errant throw from first to third.
NOTES: The game drew a crowd of 45,891, the fourth sellout of the season at Camden Yards. ... Orioles LF Nolan Reimold will have neck surgery Monday and is likely lost for the season. He's been on the DL since May 4. ... Orioles RF Nick Markakis (hand) hasn't swung a bat since undergoing surgery three weeks ago, but says he expects to return to action before the All-Star break. .. Edwin Jackson (3-4) starts for Washington on Saturday against the Orioles, who will send rookie Wei-Yin Chen (7-2) to the mound. Chen is 4-0 at home but lost to the Nationals on the road last month.