BALTIMORE - Jason Hammel knows he can be a dominant pitcher for the Baltimore Orioles. And he has demonstrated his ability to be an ace in the past.
When healthy last season, the right-hander delivered solid outings more often than not when he toed the rubber.
But this year has gone nowhere near as well. The 30-year-old has been mired in the worst stretch of his Orioles career. And it didn't get any better on Saturday against the Toronto Blue Jays.
Hammel gave up six runs on a season-high 10 hits as Baltimore fell 7-3 before a sellout crowd of 46,150. He's winless in eight starts since Memorial Day.
"Right now, I'm beating this team, they're not beating themselves. It's on my shoulders," Hammel said. "I know I'm better than this. I've got to get rolling here. This team needs consistency out of me and it's not what they're getting right now."
It was Hammel's fourth loss in his last eight starts, and the right-hander has seen his ERA escalate to 5.24. Of those eight starts, the Orioles (52-43) have lost seven of them.
Hammel, who began the season 7-1, had not given up more than five runs since May 17.
"He's capable of better and I think his best games are ahead of him," Baltimore manager Buck Showalter said of Hammel. "He's shown us he can do it. I have a lot of confidence in him."
The troubles began for Hammel (7-6) early. He gave up a 442-foot, two-run bomb to Edwin Encarnacion with one out in the top of the first.
Baltimore entered the sixth with a one-run lead, but Hammel yielded four straight two-out singles, the last coming off the bat of J.P. Arencibia. It drove in a pair of runs that gave the Blue Jays (45-48) a 4-3 lead they never relinquished.
The miscues didn't end there for Hammel. He hit Emilio Bonifacio in the foot to lead off the seventh and then walked Jose Reyes.
Hammel then exited, but both Bonifacio and Reyes scored later in the inning as both runs were charged to the Baltimore starter.
"I hate seeing [Showalter] come out every time in the seventh inning when we've had a lead and I give it back," Hammel said. "I have to hand the ball over to him, and today was no different. I was very frustrated and I actually kind of spiked it into his hand, I was a little pissed off."
Hammel added that the outings he's given the team are "unacceptable" but agrees with Showalter that he will improve.
"It's easy to hit when you know what's coming. I haven't been throwing sliders for strikes, I'm not throwing curveballs where I want them, change-up's non-existent," Hammel said, "I do believe my best days are ahead, but it's got to happen fast if we want to make this a championship season."
Nearly all of the Orioles' offense came on a pair of homers. Chris Davis hit his major league-leading 36th homer to left-center in with one out in the second to cut Toronto's lead to 2-1.
Then, Adam Jones tied the game 2-2 when he drilled the first pitch of the third to left-center for a solo homer. Later in the third, Brian Roberts drove in a run on his first of two doubles, which gave Baltimore a 3-2 lead against Toronto starter Todd Redmond.
After that, there was nothing.
"We just didn't do a whole lot offensively. We knew they were going to pitch a bullpen game," Showalter said. "Once they got the lead there, they can really match up with you."
And Toronto did. Redmond only pitched four innings, but a handful of Blue Jays relievers did a stellar job of shutting down the Orioles' bats.
Aaron Loup , Dustin McGowan, Brett Cecil, Steve Delabar, and Casey Janssen combined to hold Baltimore scoreless the final five innings, as Loup (4-3) earned the win and Janssen was credited with his 18th save.
Baltimore will try to win the rubber game today, as it looks for its first series win since its home sweep of the Yankees two weeks ago.
Jones said while the clutch hits weren't there on Saturday, every game has a fresh start.
"We got runners on base, we didn't get the big hit," Jones said. "They had that lead and they brought in that shutdown bullpen, and they shut us down. ... We lost. It happens, you get beat."