Jason Hammel failed to complete six innings in his last two starts, but he made it tonight, shutting out the Royals on five hits before Stu Pomeranz replaced him to open the seventh.
Was making it through the sixth a victory in itself?
"Definitely, getting through six," Hammel said. "I was aware of the knee. In the fifth inning was when it started. I knew it was there, maybe a little bothersome. But then I got through the sixth with the same feeling, so it didn't get any worse. Huge, huge step there. In between this start and the next one we'll continue to build strength, and hopefully we got over a nice hurdle tonight."
Hammel has spent considerable time in the trainer's room.
"We've been logging a lot of hours," he said. "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're going to stick with it."
Manager Buck Showalter pointed out that Hammel had all four pitches working tonight.
"It's nice to hear from him," Hammel said. "Honestly, I think I had a good mix of being effectively wild and bearing down when I needed to tonight. I threw some good sliders, got myself into trouble with deep counts, made big pitches tonight. Obviously J.J. (Hardy) with a great play up the middle tonight on the line drive by (Billy) Butler, and then a big inning for us. It was the perfect storm."
Hardy almost jumped out of his spikes to snare Butler's liner.
"It was huge, because they could have opened it up big right there," Hammel said. "J.J. comes down with the ball, we come in and score runs, and the next inning it's a quick inning. We go back out there and start swinging the bats. It was a huge turning point."
Hammel appreciated having the day off yesterday.
"That was definitely more than a welcome off-day there," he said. "It's been a long run for a while. We don't want too many off-days in a row, because you need those later in the year, but we've got a couple more coming up, and they're definitely going to be used."
Asked about the boisterous crowd, Hammel said, "Oh yeah, outstanding crowd tonight. If they're backing us, we're going to feel even better about ourselves. It's been fun to see the stands filling up now and just continuing to play good baseball for them. Hopefully, it continues."
The Orioles are 9-1 with a 2.43 ERA in 10 games against the American League Central this season. Dating back to last year, the Orioles are 16-3 vs. the Central.
The Orioles are 5-0 following a break in the schedule, and that doesn't include opening day. The Royals are 0-6.
The Orioles are 22-1 when they get a quality start from their rotation.
Adam Jones extended his hitting streak to 16 games.