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Hunter rebounds, Orioles edge Jays

BALTIMORE - Although Tommy Hunter's results were far different from his debacle at Chicago six days earlier, the Baltimore Orioles right-hander didn't seem to think it had gone much better.

Maybe his fastball command was somewhat improved Tuesday. Maybe his curveball had a bit more bite. Maybe he was just the beneficiary of some good fortune.

Whether he felt good about his outing or not, Hunter outdueled Henderson Alvarez in the series opener against the Toronto Blue Jays, bouncing back from a pair of duds to help the Orioles win 2-1 before an announced crowd of 11,058 at Camden Yards.

"Sometimes you throw well and you don't win. Sometimes you don't throw well and you win," Hunter said. "It's a weird sport."

Hunter (2-1), who had pitched to a 9.25 ERA (12 earned runs in 11 2-3 innings) and allowed six homers over his previous two starts, held the Blue Jays (10-7) to one run on three hits, including a solo homer, and three walks in his six frames.

Aside from permitting his seventh homer in three starts, Hunter didn't let a runner past first base. He struck out three and turned over a one-run lead to the bullpen.

Six days earlier, Hunter had been torched for eight runs on nine hits and four walks in 5 2-3 innings at Chicago. Even though he rebounded with a victory, Hunter was especially frustrated by his three walks.

"I still got myself into a few more jams than what I would've, letting guys get on base for free," he said. "That's not fun, that's not good and that's not me. But we're going to move on.

"We got a win. We're definitely happy about that, don't get me wrong. But I've got some things to do. I'll get better."

The Orioles (10-7) have now played 10 games decided by two runs or fewer, improving to 8-2 in such contests.

Despite being short-handed, the bullpen had as much to do with the latest one as Hunter.

With closer Jim Johnson unavailable because of illness, the relief corps provided three scoreless frames.

"Those were solid at the end of the game," Hunter said. "Those guys came in and it was quick, it was effective and they got the job done. ... They've been good all year and hopefully they continue to do it."

Left-hander Troy Patton tossed two-thirds of an inning before righty Darren O'Day struck out his only batter. Right-hander Luis Ayala then pitched a scoreless eighth before the hard-throwing Pedro Strop came on to sub in the ninth.

Strop struck out two and walked one, touching the upper 90s on the stadium radar gun during a scoreless frame for his first career save.

"It's amazing," Strop said. "First major league save. It feels good."

Alvarez (0-2) pitched well for Toronto, allowing two runs on five hits and two walks in seven innings.

But he was burned by loading the bases with no outs in the first, permitting the Orioles' first run on an Adam Jones double-play ball.

Eric Thames tied it at 1-1 by rocketing a 410-foot solo homer onto Eutaw Street to lead off the third, hitting the B&O Warehouse on a bounce.

Matt Wieters returned the lead to Baltimore on a solo homer with one out in the fourth. It appeared the park would hold the catcher's sixth blast of the season, but Thames knocked the eventual winning run over the left-field wall when he couldn't handle the deep fly.

"It's nice to get a little help," Wieters said. "Any help I can get, I'll take. I thought I hit it pretty good."

The highlight of the night, however, was an improved outing from an unsatisfied Hunter.

"He's going to keep firing bullets. Here it is," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "We know Tommy's capable of better."

NOTE: Top pitching prospect Dylan Bundy struck out six in four perfect innings for Class A Delmarva Tuesday. He has now pitched 13 no-hit innings over his first four pro starts, striking out 21 and walking one.

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