It took all the way until the eighth inning, but the Minnesota Twins finally recorded a hit against red-hot Baltimore starter Jason Hammel during one of the most impressive starts of his career. Unfortunately, when it takes nearly eight innings to record a hit like it did the Twins, a victory is often hard to come by.
Hammel held the Twins hitless for seven full innings on Sunday, and had more than enough in the tank left to flirt with a no-hitter before a Justin Morneau double in the eighth ended his bid. A double by outfielder Josh Willingham plated Morneau to put the Twins in the scoring column, but it was too little too late on a day where Hammel's command of the strike zone was the main story.
Not known as a big strikeout pitcher, Hammel pitched eight strong innings with five strikeouts before handing the ball over to closer Jim Johnson for the save. The Twins, now a dismal 0-3 to open the year, will now have to pick up the pieces as one of the worst teams in baseball after the sport's opening weekend. Minnesota will play host to Albert Pujols and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in a three-game series starting on Monday.
The Minnesota Twins' woes at the plate to open the season continue, as Ron Gardenhire's team has yet to record a hit against Baltimore starter Jason Hammel after five innings of play.
Baltimore shortstop J.J. Hardy homered in the first inning to put the Orioles ahead 1-0, an advantage that the righthanded Hammel has been more than comfortable working with. Hammel has fanned three Minnesota batters and walked a pair, and only needed a miniscule 58 pitches to make it through the fifth.
For the Twins, despite such a small deficit that could be erased with one swing of the bat, being held hitless by a non-elite pitcher like this is bordering on the worst-case scenario for this organization so early in the season. The Twins needed to come out strong on Sunday to avoid dropping to 0-3, but it's clear that didn't happen. Power bats like Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau and Josh Willingham will be counted on from the plate to sway the momentum in the coming innings, but it appears they will have to beat a locked-in Hammel to pull that off.