WASHINGTON - Baltimore Orioles starter Jason Hammel hadn't been pleased with many of his outings this season, despite entering Monday with a 6-2 record. But his outstanding performance Monday against the Washington Nationals left even Hammel satisfied.
The Baltimore right-hander pitched eight solid innings, as the Orioles pieced together runs at key times, lifting Baltimore to a 6-2 win before a sellout crowd of 41,260 at Nationals Park on Memorial Day.
"The fastball command that I've been searching for has been getting closer and closer and closer and today it was finally there," Hammel said. "A small adjustment I made with my slider added a lot more depth and a lot of swings and misses.
"For the year, definitely the best start."
The start came at a time the Orioles (28-23) needed a starter to get deep into a game. During the four-game series in Toronto, the longest start for Baltimore was Miguel Gonzalez's 5 2-3 innings on Sunday.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter said it was different to not have to use more than one reliever.
"Usually, that many guys don't spill out of the bullpen after a game," Showalter said. "Ham was outstanding in a much-needed outing. ... He was the difference today. We all would have signed up in blood for that today."
It was Hammel's longest outing since June 22, 2012, which was also eight innings against the Nationals. He is 6-0 in his career against Washington and 4-0 at Nationals Park.
Hammel (7-2) also had a season-high eight strikeouts and a season-best zero walks.
Baltimore catcher Matt Wieters agreed with Hammel that it was his best start of the season and was impressed with the right-hander's repertoire.
"Thing with Ham is he's going to compete, no matter what kind of stuff he has out there," Wieters said. "When he's able to bring that kind of location with that stuff, he's got a good chance to succeed."
Much like the past four games against the Blue Jays, the Orioles' bats produced enough runs to put the team in a position to win. Baltimore scored their six runs on 15 hits, after scoring 27 runs on 49 hits in this past weekend's series.
Yamaico Navarro and Nick Markakis each drove in a pair of runs and were two of Baltimore's six players with multi-hit games, including another three-hit performance from Manny Machado. The only Orioles starter to not record a hit was pitcher Jason Hammel.
It was Machado's fourth three-hit game in his last six.
Gio Gonzalez, who won 21 games for the Nationals last season, did not have a quality start for Washington (26-25). Gonzalez (3-3) gave up four runs on eight hits in 5 2-3 innings.
"You want to try to keep pressure on him and we were able to get his pitch count up and get him out of the game early," said Wieters, who collected a pair of hits to follow his four-hit game Sunday.
Baltimore got an insurance run in the top of the eighth on an Adam Jones RBI single to left, so it was no longer a save situation and closer Jim Johnson, who has struggled of late, was not needed. Darren O'Day retired the side in order in the ninth to seal the Orioles' win.
For Hammel, it was his second straight quality start after struggling previously. He gave up six runs on May 10 against the Twins and seven runs on May 17 against the Rays.
Now, in his last two starts, Hammel has given up just four runs over 14 2-3 innings.
"I'm going one game at a time, and I'll continue to go one game at a time. I'm not going to get ahead of myself," Hammel said. "That's where I got myself in trouble in the past so every day brings a new day in baseball."
Markakis said after Sunday's loss, this was a much needed win against a quality opponent, assisted by Baltimore's hot bats.
"Coming off yesterday, I think it makes it a little more important," Markakis said. "We're just on a little bit of a roll right now and we just need to keep it going and come out tomorrow and look for another W."