Jason Hammel is congratulated by teammates after leaving Sunday's… (Greg Fiume, Getty Images )
Let's agree there are worse ways for the Orioles to open the season than the beat-down they gave the Minnesota Twins this weekend.
Sure, they were playing a bad team that'll put so many wrinkles on manager Ron Gardenhire's face he'll look like a shar-pei before the season's over.
But the bottom line for the Orioles was this: three games, three wins. And three outstanding starting pitching performances, including that nifty gem Jason Hammel threw Sunday, a two-hitter over eight innings as the Orioles beat the Twins, 3-1.
Did I mention Sunday's game took a tidy two hours and 14 minutes to play? We call that a sportswriter's dream, folks. And if that doesn't speak to some kind of pitching efficiency, I don't know what does.
OK, fine, no one's printing World Series tickets around town yet. And before anyone starts hyperventilating over this start — like the talk-show crazies and the message-board nuts — let's throw a note of restraint in here.
Let's remember the Orioles got off to a 6-1 start last season before the roof caved in and they lost 93 games.
And if you want to say the reality check starts tonight when the big, bad New York Yankees come into Camden Yards for a three-game series, go ahead. Fine by me.
(Think the Yankees will be terrific mood after getting swept by the Tampa Bay Rays this weekend? Memo to tonight's starter Brian Matusz: you've got your work cut out for you, kid. Me, I'd definitely keep the ball down.)
But the promising thing about these three Orioles wins is how solid the starting pitching looked.
No, check that, it was better than solid. Way better.
It bordered on sublime.
Let's go over them again, just in case the rest of the season goes in the dumper and these three games are the highlight reel:
Jake Arrieta, coming off elbow surgery, threw seven innings of two-hit ball Friday in the Orioles' 4-2 Opening Day win. Tommy Hunter, with a ton to prove after an injury-marred season of his own, followed that by scattering six hits in seven-plus innings.
Then Hammel looked like Roy Halladay, throwing a no-hitter until the Justin Morneau hit a rocket to right field to lead off the eighth inning, a one-hopper that bounced over the Gulf sign.
I don't care who the other team is — you get three straight outings like that from your starters, you've got to feel good if you're Buck Showalter.
"So far so good," the Orioles manager said in his typically under-stated way. "I'm proud of how everybody has presented themselves. Everybody has done some good things."
My favorite part of Sunday's postgame news conference came when we were grilling Showalter about the mood in the dugout as it got later and later and Hammel was still working on the no-hitter.
Was the tension just about unbearable, Buck?
Were guys avoiding Hammel, as per baseball tradition, congregating at the end of the bench and not saying a word about it so as not to jinx the big guy?
Uh, apparently not.
"I'm not gonna give anybody up," Showalter said. "But there were a couple of our guys who didn't know it was a no-hitter, it was moving so fast."
So much for the unbearable tension.
"What's the saying: ignorance is bliss?" Showalter added. "I wish I could get in there. I got the ignorant part down. It's the bliss that doesn't come too easily."
OK, raise your hand if Showalter strikes you as a guy who would ever bliss-out, even if Hammel had thrown a no-no.
But it's not as if all the Orioles were completely clueless that Hammel was working on something special. Because MASN cameras did show a bunch of them staying away from him as he sat with a towel wrapped around his pitching arm in the seventh inning.
Anyway, Hammel said he himself didn't actually realize he was working on a no-no until the sixth inning.
"Obviously I'm not scoreboard watching," he said. "But when we got to the sixth, it's like 'Man, we're moving along here pretty quick. What's going on?'"
What was going on was the third straight masterful pitching performance for a team that'll need its starters to go way deeper in games than they did last season.
Now the Orioles can only hope Matusz can come up big against the Yankees.
"I think we're pushing each other," Hammel said of the starters. "It's something that we needed and these guys [the rest of the team] needed. Obviously, you win with starting pitching."
Hammel went on to say that the starters are going to keep attacking and "stick with it."
Might be an especially good idea against the Yankees.
Listen to Kevin Cowherd Tuesdays at 7:20 a.m. on 105.7 The Fan's "The Norris and Davis Show."