Orioles right-hander Jason Hammel was not particularly good on Thursday night. He struggled with his command, at one point throwing half of his 28 pitches for balls.
He ended up with 104 pitches -- and only 59 for strikes.
And yet he allowed just three hits, two runs (none earned) and two walks in six innings against the Oakland Athletics -- who led the majors in runs scored and on-base percentage heading into Thursday -- without being on the top of his game.
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Hammel may not be an ace, but he is the Orioles' No. 1 pitcher. And what a No. 1 pitcher must do is survive and battle when he is not cruising.
"It wasn’t the prettiest thing, but he competed,” Orioles first baseman Chris Davis said. “He gave us a chance and ended up going six innings and got the job done.”
Hammel was asked afterward if he would have been able to do that a few years ago.
“In the past, I would have folded easily,” Hammel said. “The first few years of my career, I’d get so frustrated that I’d start trying to do too much. And the only way to get through that stuff is to do less, honestly. It’s something I’ve learned over the years.”
Don’t think Orioles manager Buck Showalter isn’t aware of the 30-year-old’s maturation as a pitcher.
“I think he is at a stage in his career when he gets, I don’t know, mad or frustrated, he is able to funnel it in the proper direction instead of letting it get away from him,” Showalter said.
It’s an interesting contrast with Hammel and a guy like Jake Arrieta, who is probably more talented than Hammel, but loses focus when things start to unravel.
Hammel used to be like that. But it looks like he has conquered that challenge. Or managed it anyway.
And that’s why his effort Thursday -- which wasn’t as good as his line would suggest -- was impressive nonetheless.