Originally posted on Fox Sports North  |  Last updated 5/10/13
Baltimore Orioles right-hander Jason Hammel still thinks he can improve. His record outside Camden Yards can't be any better. Hammel will try to match the MLB lead in victories and become just the third Oriole in 54 years to win his first six road starts Friday night, when he makes his first appearance against the Minnesota Twins at Target Field. Hammel (5-1, 4.10 ERA) has been consistent through seven starts, lasting between five and 6-23 innings while allowing no more than four runs. The right-hander, though, realizes he has one of the majors' best run-support averages at 8.42. It's 9.62 on the road. "I still haven't really gotten it going, and I haven't been as good as labeled, I guess. So I still have some work to do," Hammel said after yielding four runs in six innings of Sunday's 8-4 road win over the Los Angeles Angels. "I'm a (beneficiary) of a lot of run support right now, and the bullpen's been awesome. It's that simple." Hammel gets the ball after the Orioles' season-best four-game win streak ended with Thursday's 6-2 home loss to Kansas City. Baltimore (21-14), the AL leader with 12 road wins, is tied with Boston for second in the AL East percentage points behind the New York Yankees after Minnesota (16-15) won its third straight at Fenway Park on Thursday. Hammel could end that surge with a career-best fourth consecutive winning start. The right-hander could also become the first pitcher since Josh Beckett in 2007 with Boston to post victories in his first six road starts. Only two Orioles have accomplished that since 1954 Hoyt Wilhelm in 1959 and Jeff Ballard 24 years ago. Hammel's only start in Minneapolis was a 7-3 Tampa Bay victory at the Metrodome on April 17, 2008. The Twins, meanwhile, open a nine-game stretch at Target Field with four wins in five games. They can move a season high-tying two games above .500 after finishing off a 5-5 trip. "It's important that you kind of get that feeling about grinding things out (at) the end of a long road trip," manager Ron Gardenhire said. Minnesota's Mike Pelfrey (3-3, 6.35) will be on the mound Friday. The right-hander had an encouraging start his last time out, doubling his season strikeout total to 14 while throwing six strong innings in Sunday's 4-2 win at Cleveland. Pelfrey was 1-3 with a 10.36 ERA in his previous four outings. "We're still just a year out of the (elbow reconstructive) surgery," Gardenhire said. "We're taking small steps." Pelfrey gets his first look at the Orioles since 2010 with the New York Mets. Baltimore's Chris Davis, tied for second in the AL with 10 homers, has yet to face the right-hander. Nick Markakis, 2 for 6 against Pelfrey, went 8 for 13 with two doubles as Baltimore lost two of three to the visiting Twins from April 5-7. Joe Mauer finished 2 for 13 in that series, but he's a career .373 hitter at home against the Orioles. Justin Morneau, who has four hits all doubles in nine at-bats against Hammel, led the Twins with 10 RBIs on the just-completed trip. Rookie Oswaldo Arcia hit .424 (14 for 34) during that stretch, and his hot streak could keep Chris Parmelee, who hit the Twins' only homer last month in Baltimore, on the bench for a third straight game. These clubs split a four-game set at Target Field from July 16-19.
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