TORONTO – First things first. When discussing his performance Wednesday night against the Blue Jays, Orioles right-hander Jason Hammel blamed himself and his inability to keep his fastball down against a fastball-feasting Toronto lineup.
“Balls were up in the zone, open roof tonight, ball was flying a little bit,” Hammel said after the Orioles’ 4-1 loss to Toronto at the Rogers Centre. “You put two and two together.”
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In his next breath, Hammel proposed a theory well beyond basic math.
“They’re a very potent offense and if you don’t make your pitches down they’re going to get them out,” Hammel said. “They were taking some pretty big hacks on my breaking stuff too, which leads me to believe it was something else. It is what it is. I need to keep the ball down.”
Hammel has needed few excuses this season. He’s one of baseball’s biggest turnaround stories, entering Wednesday’s game with a 6-1 record and 2.78 ERA. He led all AL started in winning percentage (.857). He entered Wednesday having allowed three homers all season, then allowed four in one night.
But with that statement, Hammel conjured up past accusations that the Blue Jays have gone to great lengths at the Rogers Centre to steal signs.
Last August, ESPN The Magazine published a story detailing of a man in white positioned in the outfield stands of the Rogers Centre who was allegedly signaling pitches from the stands, raising his hands to indicate any pitch not a fastball. Several teams, including the Red Sox and Yankees, have gone to calling pitches with multiple signs now, the story reported.
On Wednesday, Hammel, not known as a complainer, fell just short of accusing the Jays of stealing signs.
“When you’re locating your fastball, youre going to give up some home runs there, but the swings they were taking on he breaking stuff, it was pretty amazing to me,” Hammel said. “I don’t think you can take swings like that not knowing they’re coming. I don’t know. That’s all I can say.
When asked if he knew about the rumors of sign-stealing in Toronto, Hammel acknowledged it.
“There’s rumors and things like that,” he said. “I don’t know. I can’t speak on that, but they were taking very, very big strong hacks on breaking stuff.
“It was something I’ve never seen before.”
Granted, all four homers off Hammel came off fastballs, and just two of the nine hits off him came on breaking balls. But the Jays put some solid swings on Hammel all night.