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Hammel leads Orioles to 3-1 win over Twins

Baltimore Orioles starting pitcher Jason Hammel throws to the Minnesota Twins in the fourth inning of a baseball game in Baltimore, Sunday, April 8, 2012. Baltimore Orioles starting pitcher Jason Hammel throws to the Minnesota Twins in the fourth inning of a baseball game in Baltimore, Sunday, April 8, 2012. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
By David Ginsburg
AP Sports Writer / April 8, 2012
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BALTIMORE—Jason Hammel took a no-hitter into the eighth inning in his Baltimore debut, and the Orioles beat the Minnesota Twins 3-1 Sunday for a three-game sweep.

Hammel (1-0) faced the minimum 21 batters through seven innings, allowing two walks, before Justin Morneau ended the no-hit bid with a leadoff double off the right-field wall in the eighth.

The crowd of 14,738 stood in appreciation of Hammel's performance, and although his shot at making history was over, the right-hander still had a 3-0 lead to protect.

Josh Willingham followed with an RBI double and Sean Burroughs drew a one-out walk before Hammel finished by striking out Luke Hughes and retiring Ben Revere on a fly to right.

Jim Johnson worked the ninth to earn his second save and complete the two-hitter.

After beating Tampa Bay in three straight games on the road last year, the Orioles have opened the season with two straight three-game sweeps for the first time since 1996-97 -- both of which turned out to be playoff seasons.

Hammel came to Baltimore in February in the trade that sent Jeremy Guthrie to Colorado. He allowed three walks and struck out five over eight memorable innings.

J.J. Hardy homered for the Orioles, who have won seven straight over the Twins by a collective score of 39-9. The streak began with a four-game sweep last August in Minnesota.

The Twins scored only five runs in this series. The only other times Minnesota started 0-3 were in 1969 and 1981.

Twins starter Anthony Swarzak (0-1) performed admirably in place of Liam Hendriks, who was hospitalized over the weekend with apparent food poisoning. Swarzak, who's normally used as a long reliever, gave up one run and four hits in five innings. The lone glaring flaw was Hardy's first-inning home run.

Swarzak was replaced by Matt Maloney, who allowed two runs in the sixth. Adam Jones hit a leadoff single, Nick Johnson was hit by a pitch with one out and both moved up on a double steal before Wilson Betemit doubled in two runs for a 3-0 lead.

That proved to be enough offense to back Hammel, who was extremely sharp leading up to the eighth.

The only runner against Hammel over the first four innings was Willingham, who walked in the second before Ryan Doumit hit into a double play.

Morneau drew a leadoff walk in the fifth, but Willingham promptly bounced into a 1-4-3 double play. Baltimore put runners at the corners with two outs in the bottom half before Nick Markakis flied out to right.

Hammel kept the no-hitter intact in the sixth, getting three straight routine groundouts. The same thing happened in the seventh.

NOTES: Orioles LHP Wei-Yin Chen makes his major league debut Monday night against the New York Yankees. ... The Twins will send Nick Blackburn to the mound Monday in their home opener against the Los Angeles Angels. ... Hardy's homer was his first RBI of the season. Betemit's double produced his first RBIs with Baltimore.

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