Hammel leaves with knee injury (O’s win 9-2)

The Orioles continue to be health challenged, this time losing Jason Hammel to a right knee injury in the fourth inning.

Hammel retired the first two batters before walking Evan Longoria. He threw one pitch to Matt Joyce and hopped off the mound. Manager Buck Showalter, pitching coach Rick Adair and head athletic trainer Richie Bancells came out of the dugout, and Hammel came out of the game without attempting a warmup pitch.

Though it appeared that his left leg buckled, the Orioles announced that Hammel suffered a “right knee injury.”

This is another big blow to the Orioles. Hammel was making only his second start after undergoing surgery on his right knee on July 15.

Hammel allowed one run and one hit - Ryan Roberts’ home run - in 3 2/3 innings. He walked one and struck out one. The pitch to Joyce was his 44th of the night.

Steve Johnson, rushed into the game, walked Joyce and struck out Ben Francisco.

The Orioles are on the verge of returning Chris Tillman to the rotation. Now they’ve lost Hammel for an undetermined amount of time.

Nick Markakis underwent surgery on his left thumb this morning. The hits just keep on coming, and not in a good way.

Update: Matt Wieters’ two-run double in the fifth increased the Orioles’ lead to 5-1.

J.J. Hardy doubled and took third on Adam Jones’ single. Wieters followed with his 72nd and 73rd RBIs of the season, leaving him one behind Jones for the team lead.

Johnson walked two batters and struck out two in 1 1/3 scoreless innings. He’s allowed two earned runs in 10 1/3 innings over six relief appearances.

Update II: Hardy is a triple shy of the cycle after his RBI single in the sixth inning increased the Orioles’ lead to 6-1. Nate McLouth singled, stole second and came home on Hardy’s third hit of the night.

Chris Davis hit an opposite-field homer in the seventh, his 25th of the season, to provide the Orioles’ bullpen with a six-run cushion.

Luis Ayala blanked the Rays on one hit, with two strikeouts, over 1 1/3 innings. Brian Matusz retired both batters he faced and registered his 11th strikeout in 6 2/3 relief innings.

Now it’s Darren O’Day’s turn.

Update III: Hardy has a lot to learn about hitting for the cycle. He homered again in the eighth, a two-run shot that followed McLouth’s infield hit and gave the Orioles a 9-2 lead.

Hardy had five RBIs tonight, and his ninth career multi-homer game. He also homered twice May 6 in Boston.

Hardy has driven in five runs or more three times in his career, most recently May 12, 2007, against the Mets. His career high is six RBIs.

Elliot Johnson homered off O’Day before Hardy responded with his two-run shot.

The Orioles have 79 wins for the first time since the 1998.

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