BALTIMORE - If pitchers were included on the all-star ballots handed out to fans at Camden Yards, the hole next to Jason Hammel's name would likely be the most punched.
With regulars like Adam Jones, Matt Wieters and J.J Hardy all in the running for all-star spots, the Orioles just might have a few arms to go with those names. And Hammel, right now, is leading the way.
The right-hander crafted another impressive performance Friday against the Nationals, pacing the Orioles in a 2-1 win in front of 45,891 at Camden Yards.
Hammel tied a career high with 10 strikeouts and went eight innings on 96 pitches and no walks. Washington's lone run was unearned and Hammel scattered five hits.
He's now 5-0 with a 3.30 ERA against the Nats, and the Orioles (40-30) improved to 10-3 all-time at home against their beltway rivals. Jim Johnson, another potential all-star candidate, walked a batter in the ninth but held on for his 21st save. Johnson snared a liner from Danny Espinosa to end it while most of the crowd stood and cheered.
Hammel (8-2) was on point from the start. He fanned 10 for the third time in his career and improved to 6-0 this season when recording seven or more strikeouts.
In fact, the only thing that may have slowed Hammel down was a 61-minute delay before the game began because of the threat of rain.
The showers waited until the early innings to dampen the ballpark. But they didn't wash away Hammel's impressive effort. Not that the Orioles ace is concerned with any accolades that might come his way, like a possible all-star appearance in Kansas City.
"I honestly could care less about that," Hammel said. "I think we have something bigger going on here with the team. We're playing good ball right now. If that were to happen, that's awesome. I don't think we're really thinking about that right now. We're just trying to compete and make it into the all-star break going strong."
Hammel tied his career high in strikeouts by fanning Roger Bernadina for the second out in the seventh, and Hardy preserved the lead with a leaping catch at shortstop on Jesus Flores' liner with runners on first and second during the next at-bat.
Hardy's two-out RBI double in the fifth regained the lead for Baltimore, which ran its record in one-run games to 12-6. Hardy led all AL shortstops with 18 RBIs in May, but he hadn't driven in a run in eight games before delivering Friday and helping Hammel to another win.
Hardy said he thinks his teammate will represent the club as an all-star.
"Definitely. I voted for him today," Hardy said. "He's awesome. He's been really good every start this year."
Orioles manager Buck Showalter agreed, particularly with Hammel coming off a complete-game one-hitter he fired June 16 down in Atlanta.
Mark Reynolds stayed hot at the plate and gave the Orioles a 1-0 lead in the third with his sixth homer of the season, a line drive to left field with two outs. But his fielding led to a pair of errors and handed the Nationals their first run.
Ian Desmond led off the fifth with a single and ran to second on a one-out groundout to third baseman Wilson Betemit. When Betemit threw to Reynolds at first, Desmond dashed to an uncovered bag.
Reynolds fired across the diamond but his throw was high and got past Betemit, allowing Desmond to score an unearned run.
But that's all the Nats (40-28) mounted against Hammel, who is quickly becoming one of the league's premier starters and a name that fans might see pitching for the American League all-star squad in a few weeks.
"I think he should be a strong consideration," Showalter said. "I'm biased. I get to see him pitch every fifth day. I can't imagine a guy having a much better year than he's having."