Twins-Orioles Preview

The Associated Press

Baltimore Orioles starter Jason Hammel has a pair of tough acts to follow.

Hammel is next in line Sunday for an Orioles rotation that has been spectacular as Baltimore tries for a season-opening three-game home sweep of the Minnesota Twins, seeking to avoid their first 0-3 start in 31 years.

Baltimore (2-0), which opened 4-0 a year ago, has won six straight over Minnesota (0-2) by a combined score of 36-8. Jake Arrieta got the Orioles off to a strong start with seven scoreless innings in a 4-2 win Friday, before Tommy Hunter allowed two unearned runs over seven-plus innings Saturday en route to an 8-2 victory.

"You see us getting deeper in the game with our starting pitching, we'll have some fun this year,'' manager Buck Showalter said. "It's two out of 162, but it's a good way to start.''

This is the first time the Orioles have had back-to-back starts of seven or more innings to open a season since 2001, when Pat Hentgen and Sidney Ponson did it. Jason Johnson also accomplished the feat in the third game.

Hammel will make his Orioles debut after being acquired Feb. 6 in the trade that sent Jeremy Guthrie to Colorado. This is his second stint in the AL after going 7-15 with a 5.90 ERA with Tampa Bay from 2006-08, his first three years in the majors.

The most experienced starter in Baltimore's young rotation, Hammel went 7-13 with a 4.76 ERA for the Rockies last year. The right-hander is 1-0 with a 3.00 ERA in two career stars against the Twins.

Minnesota's Jamey Carroll - 0 for 7 with a walk in this series - could be happy to see Hammel since he's 6 for 12 against him. Josh Willingham is 4 for 10 versus Hammel.

The Orioles have been led offensively by Nick Markakis, who has gone 5 for 7 with four RBIs while homering in each of the first two games.

Markakis' RBI total matches that of the Twins. Minnesota, which began 0-4 in 1981, is 1 for 11 with runners in scoring position.

"These first two games are not indicative of how well we played in the spring,'' manager Ron Gardenhire said. "Once you start the season it's different, and we have to kick it into gear.''

The Twins have scratched rookie Liam Hendriks from Sunday's start due to food poisoning, so Anthony Swarzak will get the nod instead. Swarzak went 4-7 with a 4.32 ERA in 27 appearances last season, including 11 starts.

"I was preparing to be a starter for weeks in spring training, and was put in a situation where if they need a spot start, I'd be ready to go," Swarzak told the Twins' official website. "It's unfortunate for Liam to be in the situation he's in. I hope he gets better as soon as possible, because he's a pretty good pitcher, and in the big picture we need as many good pitchers on the staff as we can get."

The right-hander has never started against the Orioles, although he gave up five runs over 3 1-3 innings of relief and suffered a 6-1 loss Aug. 25 in his lone appearance against them.

The Twins haven't been swept in a three-game set at Camden Yards since Aug. 6-8, 2002.