Unfortunately for Hammel's personal resume, his rockiest outing of the season came at the worst possible time for a pitcher who was full steam ahead toward the All-Star game.
In the Orioles' 13-1 pummeling by the Los Angeles Angels on Wednesday night, Hammel couldn't escape a six-run fourth in which the Angels strung together seven hits — including six singles — and sent 11 men to the plate.
“There haven't been many people pitching better than Hamm, and he gets a mulligan,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “Obviously, you've got to give [the Angels] credit. They're swinging the bats pretty well; at least they have been these two games. Every mistake we made, they were on.”
Not only did the beating give the Orioles (41-33) their sixth loss in eight games and hand the Angels (42-33) a two-game sweep at Camden Yards, but it also may have severely damaged Hammel's chances at an All-Star nod. He was more concerned about his overall performance, though.
“It's going to sit with me for about 24 hours,” said Hammel, who walked three Wednesday after walking two in his last two starts. “I'll get some sleep, but obviously I'm not too happy about it.”
The lanky right-hander entered the night on a 19-inning scoreless streak while boasting a 2.61 ERA, the American League's sixth best. He was charged with eight runs (tying a career high), which pumped his ERA up to 3.29 and dropped him to 10th in that category.
“Just one of those nights where nothing seemed to go his way,” Showalter said. “We didn't help him defensively, either.”
Collectively, the Orioles turned in a similarly awful performance, arguably their worst of the year in front of a disinterested crowd of 18,055. The Orioles actually have given up more runs in a game in 2012 — 14 to Texas on May 7 — but hadn't lost by 12 or more this season.
The offense managed six hits and one run — an Adam Jones' RBI double in the first — against Jered Weaver (8-1), who threw 6 2/3 solid innings. The Orioles were hitless in six at-bats with runners in scoring position, making them 2-for-47 in their last nine games (.043). They have scored three runs or fewer in 10 of their past 11 games and 21 runs total in that span.
“It's always frustrating. Whenever we got runners in scoring position, we always want to get them in,” said shortstop J.J. Hardy, who has four hits in his last 41 at-bats, but could have had three Wednesday. “Just hasn't been going our way lately.”
It started poorly in the first when rookie center fielder Mike Trout made a highlight-reel, leaping catch against the wall to rob Hardy of a sure home run. The impressive Trout, who is hitting .398 this month, also tied a career high with four of the Angels' 16 hits in the game. But the catch is what really stood out.
“To me, that's the best,” Hardy said. “For sure, that's probably the best play I've seen against me. Maybe the best I've seen against anyone else, too. Pretty good.”
The Orioles, meanwhile, committed three more errors to again take over the major league lead in the category with 66 (two more than the Tampa Bay Rays). Second baseman Brian Roberts let a ball go through his legs, third baseman Wilson Betemit failed to catch a throw and Jones was charged with an error when he overran a single in center field.
Injury was added to insult in the fourth, when designated hitter Nick Johnson was lifted for pinch-hitter Ryan Flaherty due to pain in his right wrist — the same wrist he had surgery on in May 2010.
Johnson said he felt discomfort while swinging on a changeup in his second-inning at-bat. He likely will get a MRI on Thursday, but is optimistic he can avoid the disabled list.
“It's not swollen,” he said. “Some of the things in the past, it's not the same, so we'll see what happens.”
The real story, though, was the rough night by Hammel, who was making his final start before All-Star rosters are announced Sunday afternoon. If he could have reached nine wins — tied for second in the league — and lowered his ERA, he would have had an excellent case for inclusion. Hammel (8-3) still has a shot, but without much name recognition, it may be an uphill climb, especially coming off one of the worst starts of his career.
He lasted just 3 1/3 innings, his shortest outing as an Oriole and shortest start since Aug. 19, 2011, when he went three innings against the Los Angeles Dodgers while with the Colorado Rockies. Hammel was pulled from the rotation after that game and sent temporarily to the bullpen, which he has continually stated was a wakeup call for his career.
The Orioles were hoping that Hammel's dream season would continue, but by the first inning, it was clear Hammel wouldn't be as dominant as he had been recently. His attempt at extending his scoreless innings streak ended quickly.
The Angels' second batter, Torii Hunter, hit a hanging curveball from Hammel into the left-field stands to give Los Angeles a 1-0 lead.
They added two more in the third and then exploded for six runs in the fourth — with eight of the first nine runs charged to Hammel and the other to reliever Matt Lindstrom, who came off the disabled list Wednesday.
Lindstrom, who hadn't pitched since May 10 due to a torn ligament in his right middle finger, gave up two hits and a run in 2/3 of an inning and also allowed two inherited runners to score.
The Orioles are 2-3 on the nine-game homestand after dropping two consecutive to the Angels, who have won 24 of their last 32 and are currently the hottest team in baseball.
Now, the Orioles host the Cleveland Indians, who have lost five straight, the longest such skid in baseball. The Orioles are hoping they can take advantage of the swooning Tribe while forgetting about their worst loss of the season.
“I'm not going to get into that, ‘Woe is me.' We'll regroup and be ready to play [Thursday],” Showalter said. “We haven't had many of these. We had a couple tough games here, and I know our guys will respond.”