Carroll County Times

Orioles lose Hammel, tie Yankees for first in AL East

BALTIMORE - The losses continue to mount for the Orioles.

Not the kind that hurt in the standings. The resilient squad beat Tampa Bay 9-2 Tuesday to move back into a first-place tie in the AL East.

Rather, the kind that just plain hurt.

Three days after losing leadoff hitter Nick Markakis for the regular season with a broken thumb, starting pitcher Jason Hammel had to leave Tuesday's game with an injury to the same knee that required surgery earlier in the summer.

"We've been down this road many times this year, now. A lot of different challenges," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "We've operated a good portion of the season without Hammel, without Nicky, so we're kind of experienced at it. It's not an experience you'd want to have."

The J.J. Hardy-led offense responded to the latest challenge with a 13-hit attack against the team with the best ERA in the league. Hardy went 4 for 5 with two home runs and five RBIs.

"I got a couple pitches to hit and didn't miss them," the Orioles' shortstop said.

The Orioles didn't miss too many pitches on Tuesday. Matt Wieters went 3 for 3 with two RBIs and Chris Davis contributed a solo home run. Meanwhile, five relievers combined for 5 2-3 innings of one-run ball in relief of Hammel, who plans to have an MRI on his right knee today.

Hammel, the Orioles' top pitcher over the first half of the season, was making just his second start since his July 15 surgery. He left his July 13 start against the Detroit Tigers because of of pain similar to what he felt in his right knee after throwing a pitch to Evan Longoria in the fourth inning Tuesday.

"It felt the same as it did in the game against Detroit. It was just one pitch and then after the pitch I couldn't load on the leg again," Hammel said, describing the pain as "very sharp."

Hammel said he was told scar tissue could be the cause of the pain and said the fact that the knee was not swelling Tuesday night was a good sign. But he was the picture of dejection standing in front of his locker, worried that his season could be over.

"I know I can help this team when I'm healthy, so it's frustrating," he said. "I don't want to be done yet."

The Orioles have seven players on the disabled list and are awaiting Chris Tillman's return to the rotation after he left his Sept. 2 start with a tender elbow.

But they've thus far managed to keep winning. Tuesday's victory, their 12th in 17 games, coupled with the Yankees' 4-3 loss to Boston tied them with New York atop the AL East for the fourth time this month.

Tuesday's win also moved the Orioles to 79-62 this year, giving them their most wins in a season since 1998.

Hammel retired the first seven batters he faced and had yielded only one run on one hit through 3 2-3 innings when he hurt himself early in Longoria's at-bat. He wound up walking Longoria and then threw one pitch to Joyce. He didn't throw another. Steve Johnson (3-0) replaced him and, after hurrying to get ready, pitched 1 1-3 scoreless innings to pick up the win.

The Orioles scored first when Adam Jones drew a two-out walk in the bottom of the first off Rays starter Matt Moore (10-10) and Wieters followed with a bloop single to right field that Joyce had trouble fielding, allowing Jones to score on his error.

After Tampa tied it in the top of the third when Ryan Roberts roped a solo home run to left for the only hit off Hammel, the Orioles went back on top in the bottom of the inning when Robert Andino doubled and scored on Hardy's 20th home run of the season.

They added to their lead in the fifth when Hardy greeted reliever Burke Badenhop with a double to right-center, Jones singled to right, and Wieters ripped a a two-run double off the fence in right-center. Hardy had an RBI single in the sixth and Davis hit an opposite-field homer in the seventh.

Hardy came up with one on and one out in the eighth needing a triple for the cycle. Instead, he blasted another two-run shot.

Showalter was impressed by Hardy's big night, but said Hardy's consistency as a player and as a human being helps the Orioles even when he doesn't put gaudy numbers in the box score.

The manager lauded his team's continuing ability to overcome adversity.

"I don't ever take it for granted. This is a very mentally tough group," he said. "I've come to not be surprised. I'm just fortunate to have a good seat to watch it - a very professional, hard-driving group that have their mind set on a goal."