A return to 2012 form by Jason Hammel would be big for the Orioles

Tonight would be a good time for Jason Hammel to pitch better than he has in recent outings. Hammel went 8-6 with a 3.43 ERA last year and while he is 7-4 this year, his ERA is up there at 5.30.

Hammel has allowed four runs over six innings in each of his last two outings and in his most recent four starts, he is 0-2 with an ERA of 6.23. His last win came May 27 against Washington.

His hits per nine innings are up and his strikeout rate is down. Hammel has been able to put together back-to-back quality starts just once this season.

Last year, Hammel had four starts of seven innings or more in 20 outings and this season, he has gone that far just once in 15 starts.

Against Cleveland tonight, he is facing one of the three clubs he has never beaten. He is 0-3 versus the Indians, 0-4 against the Orioles and 0-1 against Texas.

He is 0-3 with an ERA of 6.20 in seven career games, with three careers starts, against Cleveland.

Hammel also pitched much better at Camden Yards in 2012, when he was 4-2 with a 3.44 ERA in 10 starts. This year at home, he is 1-3 with a 7.09 ERA over six starts.

His mound opponent tonight is Scott Kazmir, who is 4-4 with a 5.37 ERA. Kazmir holds lefty batters to an average of just .208, but right-handed hitters bat .324 with an OPS of 1.006 against him. He has given up just one homer in 72 at-bats against lefty batters while he has yielded 12 in 179 at-bats against right-handed hitters.

The Orioles have three lefty batters and six that will hit from the right side against Kazmir.

But for the Orioles, Hammel was a big key to their 2012 success. If he can get locked in soon, it would be a big key for a 2013 O's team looking for some consistently good starting pitching.

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