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TOR@BAL: Drabek fans three through six solid frames

BALTIMORE -- The Blue Jays' offense has gone into an early-season slumber during Toronto's three-game series in Baltimore.

For the second consecutive night, Toronto's bats were held in check by the O's staff, and even the smallest of deficits proved too much to overcome.

Kyle Drabek threw six strong innings, but the Blue Jays managed to put just three runners in scoring position en route to a 3-0 loss to the Orioles on Wednesday night at Camden Yards.

"We're in a little bit of a dry patch right now, the last two nights," Toronto manager John Farrell said. "Not going to take anything away from their ability to pitch and how they've executed in these first two games."

On Tuesday night, the Blue Jays were limited by Tommy Hunter, and on Wednesday, it was Jason Hammel's time to shine. Despite relatively similar results, there was a stark difference between the quality of stuff from Toronto's opposing pitchers.

Hunter left a lot of pitches up in the zone that the Blue Jays likely should have hammered. But Hammel had impressive command within the strike zone on all three of his pitches and kept the hitters off balance the entire night.

The sentiment in Toronto's clubhouse on Tuesday was that the club let one get away. The following day, the mood appeared to be more of one willing to give credit where credit was due.

"Hammel just had it, sometimes you don't know what that is, but it was coming out of his hand well," said second baseman Kelly Johnson, who went 0-for-4 with a pair of strikeouts. "He was obviously very confident, feeling good and I think I can say it was his night."

The lone Blue Jays' threat occurred during a two-out rally in the fourth. Toronto had runners on first and second when Brett Lawrie hit a slow chopper toward shortstop that was fielded by J.J. Hardy. Hardy made a clean throw to first, but while Lawrie appeared out on the video replay, he was ruled safe by umpire Tony Randazzo.

That allowed the inning to continue with the bases loaded for Colby Rasmus, who worked the count full before flying out to end the threat. The runners on second and third were two of only three who reached scoring position for Toronto in two games at Baltimore this year.

Hammel allowed a total of four hits and one walk while striking out seven en route to the Blue Jays dropping their fourth game in five attempts against Baltimore this season. With the win, he improved to 4-0 lifetime versus the Blue Jays and his team has yet to lose a game in those seven career starts.

"I'm not overconfident, I know what I need to do to be successful," Hammel said. "Use my fielders to make the plays and just continue to make the pitches. I'm going to keep working on it. There are definitely things I need to continue to work on, but we're playing great baseball."

The lack of production at the plate spoiled another impressive outing by Drabek. The 24-year-old appeared to struggle with his command at times, but managed to induce a double play when things started to get dicey. His only two costly mistakes came on solo home runs by Wilson Betemit and Chris Davis.

Drabek allowed just those two runs on five hits and three walks while striking out three in six innings. That gave Drabek his second quality start, but he was stuck with his first loss.

"I let them back in the count and you have to make even a better pitch when you're behind in the count," Drabek said of the two solo home runs. "They just happened to get enough of them to get it out of here.

"If you give one up, you definitely want it to be a solo one, but that just goes back to trying to get ahead to where you have to make them hit your pitch instead of letting them back in to where they might know what's coming."

The Blue Jays have now lost back-to-back series against Baltimore for the first time since 2009. In the four losses this season, they have managed to score an average of 2.5 runs, but with the club two games over .500, nobody is about to start panicking.

That's good news for a club that entered the game ranked fourth in the American League with 83 runs, but just 11th with a .243 batting average.

"It's early in the year, so you always want to get some hits and look up there and see good numbers and everything," Johnson said. "But I think guys have been around long enough to kind of understand that's baseball.

"It doesn't take much, it takes a really good game, a couple of good games in a row and all of a sudden, everything looks better. Batting averages fluctuate; it's a pretty overrated stat anyways, but we'll get our hits." Comments