By Eduardo A. Encina
The Baltimore Sun
6:00 AM EDT, June 17, 2012
As near perfect at Orioles right-hander Jason Hammel was on the mound Saturday night against the Braves, he did his share to help beat Atlanta with his bat.
The Orioles put on a small-ball clinic in their 5-0 win over the Braves by moving runners over and getting key hits.
And Hammel was in the middle of it, dropping sacrifice bunts in the fifth and seventh innings to put runners in scoring position.
Both times, leadoff hitter Brian Roberts capitalized, hitting a RBI single in the fifth and slapping a two-run single in the seventh. His three-RBI night was hit first since April 29, 2011.
“I told Hammel that’s the fun part about National League baseball,” Roberts said. “When you’re the leadoff guy and the bottom of the order is swinging the bat that good and the pitcher has a clue how to bunt, you get some RBI chances. That’s fun because that’s not always your role.”
Said Hammel, who played three seasons in the NL with the Rockies: “I can get the bunts down all night, setting it up there for B-Rob to knock them in. That was a bug part of the game too, B-Rob driving those runs in. I don’t like hitting too much any more. I like bunting. That’s why I didn’t outrun that one. My knee was hurting a little bit. I wanted him to meet me halfway.”
And Orioles manager Buck Showalter’s decision to give Hammel and his sore right knee an extra day off – a decision that seemed to mean little at the time --- paid off. Hammel said just one day made a huge difference. He pitched with confidence throughout, and even when the knee was sore in the eighth and ninth – and earlier on the basepaths – Hammel could pitch on knowing he will get another extra day with Thursday’s off day looming.
He grinded out a win on the mound – and even at the plate.“As well as Hamm pitched, the two sac bunts played pretty big in the game,” Showalter said. “That was great execution there. Robby has two big hits behind him.”
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