Orioles-Blue Jays Preview
By NICOLINO DIBENEDETTO
(AP) -- Late last season, the Baltimore Orioles were making improvements on the road. That appears to have carried over into 2012.
Jason Hammel will try to keep it that way.
Hammel looks to build on his dazzling Orioles debut when he takes the mound Saturday against the Toronto Blue Jays.
Baltimore was among the worst teams in the majors with a 30-51 road record last season, but the club won four of its last six and 12 of its final 21 to cap the away schedule.
The Orioles (4-3) are trying to continue that success in 2012, and Wilson Betemit's two-run single in the eighth inning Friday helped them open this 10-game road trip with a 7-5 win at Toronto.
"Here, playing in our division, it was important to start this road trip off pretty well," center fielder Adam Jones said.
Hammel figures to help the cause.
The right-hander, acquired from Colorado in an offseason trade, was outstanding in his Baltimore debut during Sunday's 3-1 victory over Minnesota. He took a no-hitter into the eighth inning before yielding one run and two hits and not coming out for the ninth.
Hammel wasn't upset about losing the no-hit bid in what was perhaps the best start of his six-plus seasons in the majors.
"Not at all. There's no disappointment there," he said. "It's one crack at it. I feel like I'm going to be around the game for long. I'm sure I'll have more chances at it."
Hammel has a 3.32 ERA while winning his last three starts against the Blue Jays. The last one was a gem June 12, 2010, when he allowed three hits in eight innings of a 1-0 win for the Rockies.
Jones is the first Oriole to put together a seven-game, season-opening hitting streak since Jay Gibbons went 10 contests in 2006. He kept his hot start going Friday, getting three hits with a homer and two RBIs.
Jones is hitting .357 with two doubles and two homers on the young season, and he's 9 for 21 (.429) in his past five games at Toronto.
The Blue Jays (4-3) are looking for more production from Jose Bautista. The All-Star right fielder is 2 for 22 since opening 2012 with three hits - including his only homer - in a win at Cleveland on April 5.
He's 0 for 4 with two strikeouts versus Hammel, and he had only two of his 43 homers last year in 18 games against Baltimore.
Henderson Alvarez gets the ball for the Jays as he tries again for his second MLB win. The 21-year-old right-hander is 0-1 despite a 3.23 ERA in six starts since beating the Orioles with eight strong innings in a 13-0 road victory Aug. 31.
He was impressive in his season debut Monday as he became the youngest pitcher in team history to start a home opener. Alvarez allowed one run and four hits in six innings before closer Sergio Santos blew the save by giving up three runs in the ninth in a 4-2 loss to Boston.
Updated April 14, 2012