ATLANTA -- As Brandon Beachy breezed through the Orioles' lineup, he provided reason to wonder if this might be a special night for the Braves. But by the time it was over, it proved to be one they would like to soon forget.
Along with watching Beachy make an early exit because of a sore right elbow, the Braves were dominated by Jason Hammel and nearly ended up on the wrong end of a no-hitter.
Jason Heyward's two-out seventh inning single broke up Hammel's no-hit bid on Saturday night. But while recording just this one hit, the Braves were unable to erase the damage their bullpen incurred on the way to suffering a 5-0 loss to the Orioles.
"You didn't want him pitching a no-hitter," Braves centerfielder Michael Bourn said. "You don't want that to happen, but he had no-hit stuff tonight. I can tell you that. He was locating everything. We were able to scrap one against him."
While the Braves avoided the embarrassment of being no-hit, they were unable to alter the mood of a rather somber evening. Instead of watching Beachy attempt to improve his Major League-best ERA, they instead saw him walk off the mound in the fourth inning with a right elbow injury that could jeopardize his availability for the remainder of the season.
It was too early for the Braves to know if Beachy will need to undergo a significant surgical procedure or how long he might be sidelined. But it was impossible for them to hide their concern.
In fact, the Braves were much more concerned about Beachy's health than they were the fact that Hammel had limited them to one hit on the way to notching the first shutout of his career. "We want to win ballgames and that's what we set out to do, but to lose Beachy tonight was really unfortunate," Heyward said.
Hammel's historic bid ended after he walked Dan Uggla for the second time and then missed the strike zone with three straight pitches before Heyward laced a 3-2 fastball to left field. The Braves right fielder entered the game with five hits in his only previous five at-bats against the Orioles right-hander.
Heyward's opposite-field single was the only thing that kept the Braves from being no-hit for the first time since Ubaldo Jimenez dominated them on April 17, 2010. This marked the first time they were limited to one hit since facing Roy Owalt, Ryan Madson and Brad Lidge during a Sept. 22, 2010 loss to the Phillies.
"We got one hit tonight," Braves catcher Brian McCann said. "That's never a good thing. But you've got to tip your cap to Hammel. He pitched great. His sinker was really darting and he was putting his offspeed pitches over when he needed to. I thought he had a great game plan."
Beachy was flirting with his own masterpiece as he retired each of the first 11 batters he faced. But his bid for perfection -- and his outing -- ended when he issued a two-out walk to Chris Davis in the fourth inning. The right-hander's velocity dipped during the fourth inning and the two curveballs he threw to open Davis' fourth-inning plate appearance did not make it to the plate.
There was certainly reason for concern, as Beachy did not even attempt to throw another pitch while being evaluated by manager Fredi Gonzalez and assistant trainer Jim Lovell. He battled elbow soreness after his last start and was given three extra days of rest before this start. Beachy, who leads the Majors with a 2.00 ERA, will be further evaluated and undergo an MRI exam within the next two days.
After Beachy exited, right-handed reliever Anthony Varvaro issued consecutive walks before allowing Mark Reynolds to record a two-run single to left field. Brian Roberts added a fifth-inning RBI single off Varvaro to give Hammel a little more cushion as he extended his historical bid.
The only thing separating Hammel from perfection during the first six innings was the leadoff walk he issued to Uggla in the second inning. Heyward followed with a long fly out and Eric Hinske reached on a fielder's choice only because first base umpire D.J. Reyburn ruled the Orioles' pitcher was not touching first base while receiving a double-play throw.
"We hit some balls hard and they didn't fall," Gonzalez said. "Then all of the sudden we lose our starter and we've got to go to the pen and we get behind the eight ball. But you've got to tip your cap to Hammel. He did a great job."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.