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TOR@BAL: Hammel fans seven over seven shutout frames

BALTIMORE -- Jason Hammel is gaining confidence on the mound. That's good news for the Orioles, but bad news for the American League hitters he's been controlling through the first month of this season.

Hammel has been impressive in his first three starts and was again Wednesday night. The right-hander turned in seven scoreless innings, while Wilson Betemit and Chris Davis hit solo homers in a 3-0 victory over the Blue Jays before 10,415 at Oriole Park.

Hammel (3-0) came to the Orioles in an offseason deal with the Rockies, who received Jeremy Guthrie in return. With Colorado, Hammel spent much of the second part of last season in the bullpen, but began throwing better. That success has continued into this season.

"For a long time, it took me a while to build confidence," Hammel said. "I got hit around a bit. Only when I started to care about being a pitcher did my confidence go up. Obviously, the results are showing it. I know what I need to do to be successful -- use my fielders to make the plays and just continue to make the pitches."

Hammel gave up four hits in his seven innings. The right-hander struck out seven and walked one. He ran into trouble just once, when the Jays loaded the bases with two outs in the fourth, but Hammel got Colby Rasmus to fly out.

The Jays' only runners in scoring position against Hammel came in the fourth as the righty remained in command throughout.

"Hammel just had it," Toronto second baseman Kelly Johnson said. "Sometimes you don't know what that is, but it was coming out of his hand well. He was obviously very confident and feeling good, and I think I can say it was his night."

The seven scoreless innings lowered Hammel's ERA to 1.73. He's allowed just five earned runs in 26 innings through four starts. The right-hander has 25 strikeouts and eight walks.

"He's got a lot of different speeds," O's manager Buck Showalter said. "Throws the slider and the curveball and the two-seamer. Mixes in a changeup, so you're talking about different planes and three different speeds. So far, so good with him."

Matt Lindstrom -- who also joined the O's in the Guthrie deal -- came on to take care of the Jays in the eighth. Pedro Strop closed it in the ninth for his second save in two nights.

Toronto starter Kyle Drabek turned in six effective innings. He gave up two runs on five hits, but the two solo homers proved to be the difference.

Baltimore took a 1-0 lead when Betemit hit a two-out homer to center in the second. He sent a 3-1 fastball over the fence in center to give the O's the lead for good.

The home run helped Betemit overcome a slow start, as he committed two errors in the first two innings at third base. Hammel shrugged off both miscues and kept on rolling.

The O's added to the lead in the fourth when Davis homered to left with two outs. Baltimore added an insurance run in eighth against Jason Frasor. Nick Markakis drew a two-out walk and scored when Adam Jones lined a double to left.

That extra run looked bigger when Strop ran into trouble in the ninth. Adam Lind and Eric Thames singled to begin the inning. But Strop settled down and got Edwin Encarnacion on a fly ball to center for the first out. Brett Lawrie then grounded into a game-ending double play.

Strop, who earned his first Major League save Tuesday, has been filling in for closer Jim Johnson, out with an illness that hospitalized him since late Monday night.

The O's have won three straight, sticking with a simple formula. They've received solid starting pitching plus good work out of the bullpen, along with key hits at the right time.

"We're not trying to go out there and reinvent the wheel," Davis said. "We're just trying to do what we know how to do best and stick with that."

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