Craig Heist, wtop.com
BALTIMORE, Md. — Following the old baseball proverb "You will only go as far as your pitching takes you," the Orioles had a 3-0 start to the 2012 season after their 3-1 win over the Minnesota Twins Sunday at Camden Yards, completing their weekend series sweep.
Friday afternoon it was Jake Arrieta who threw seven innings of shutout baseball, allowing just two hits in the season opener in a 4-2 win. That was followed up Saturday night by Tommy Hunter, who also went seven innings allowing two unearned runs and six hits as the Orioles won 8-2.
In his Orioles debut Sunday, Jason Hammel took a no-hitter into the eighth inning before Justin Morneau hit a leadoff double to ruin the no-hit bid.
Former Nationals player Josh Willingham then doubled home Morneau to give the Twins their lone run of the game. After a one-out walk to put runners at first and second, Hammel struck out Luke Hughes and then got Chris Parmelee to fly out to end the inning.
"That was probably the most impressive thing of the whole day," said Orioles manager Buck Showalter. "After he gave up the no-hitter and got in a little bind there, I'll tell ya a lot of people pull the dirt in around them. That was probably the most impressive thing today."
Hammel came to Baltimore in the trade that sent Jeremy Guthrie to Colorado in the off season. He allowed three walks and struck out five over eight innings - clearly the best start of his career.
"For sure, for sure," Hammel said, chuckling. "I had another good one but I lost that one. I went eight innings, had a complete game and lost that 1-0, so I will take this any day of the week."
While Hammel said he hasn't been much better than that, he can still be better with his command.
"The two-seamer was something I just started using in spring training again and it got me behind in counts today, but I battled back and got quick outs after that," he said.
The Orioles were last in all of baseball in pitching last season, with a 4.89 ERA. Hammel knows the Birds' fortunes this year will hinge on how consistently their starters can get them deep into games.
"Jake did a great job setting the tone and Tommy came out and did the same exact thing," he said. "You know, we're going to keep pushing each other and prove to this team that we are going to pitch and if the guys put up a few runs for us, we're going to be pretty damned good."
The Orioles managed to do that in this series with timely hitting, outscoring the Twins 15-5 while hitting five home runs.
Hammel thinks a 3-0 start makes a statement.
"I'd like to say it's pretty loud, you know, announcing we're here," he said. "We are tired of being the doormat and I think a lot of guys feel that way. Obviously, people are going to say what they want to say but we don't care. Inside this clubhouse, we're ready to play some baseball."
"We've had three good starts like we did last year, so far, so good," Showalter said. "I'm proud of the way they presented themselves. Everyone for the most part has done some good things."
We will see if it continues Monday when the Yankees come into Camden Yards for the first of a three-game series. They should be in a good mood coming off a three-game sweep at the hands of the Tampa Bay Rays over the weekend.
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