Jason Hammel picked up his sixth win on Friday night by not allowing a run in the Orioles’ 8-2 win against the Kansas City Royals.
He now is tied with six others for the AL lead in wins.
But the six that’s really important from Friday night was the number of innings Hammel threw.
Because he hasn’t been able to go that long since May 5 due to soreness in his right knee that caused his leg to weaken as an outing progressed. In his last start, he went 5 1/3 innings; the time before that it was five innings. He said it ended up feeling like he was pitching on one leg in those games.
So six full innings for Hammel was a victory in itself, especially because he felt the soreness, but he managed to pitch through it.
“I was aware of the knee, in the fifth inning was when it started. I knew it was there, maybe a little bothersome,” said Hammel, who is 6-1 with a 2.78 ERA. “But then I got through the sixth with the same feeling. So it didn’t get any worse. So huge, huge step there. So in between this start and the next one we’ll continue to build strength and hopefully we got over a nice hurdle tonight.”
His work in between outings in the trainers’ room, and in the pool in a zero-gravity suit, has helped strengthen the knee, he said.
“We’ve been logging a lot of hours in the training room,” he said. “And the body can deteriorate after a while if you’re not doing anything to maintain stamina and endurance. Just being able to do something I think really helped and we are going to stick with it.”
Orioles manager Buck Showalter believes the club’s cautious approach with Hammel – pushing a start back several days in mid-May, making sure he got an extra days’ rest before this outing – has helped.
“It's not, knock on wood, as big a topic of conversation anymore. It's going pretty good right now, especially when you get a chance to give him another day,” Showalter said of Hammel’s injury. “We feel like we've got a chance to manage it this season. Hopefully, that continues.”
That’s been a huge key for the Orioles success, since Hammel has been the club’s most consistent pitcher.