One issue that’s consistently come up over the course of the very early part of the season schedule has been starting pitchers going deep into games. Chris Tillman had put the Baltimore Orioles in a great position regarding the bullpen with Sunday’s game, and the hope was that Ubaldo Jimenez could continue that trend in yesterday’s Opening Day at Yankee Stadium against the Bronx Bombers (and Derek Jeter‘s final Opening Day as a player at that). However it was not to be; Jimenez’s line: 4.2 IP, 8 H, 4 R, 5 BB, 4 K. I suspect that what killed Jimenez were the walks, which ultimately led to runs on the board for New York. “Nothing good ever happens after a walk…” as MASN analyst and former Oriole Rick Dempsey always says.
The O’s had a runner on base in each of the first two innings against NY starter Hiroki Kuroda, however nothing came of it. Perhaps that was most detrimental in the second inning when Nelson Cruz was caught way off of first on Steve Lombardozzi‘s fly out to center, allowing Jacoby Ellsbury to double him up to end the inning. New York put runners at the corners on Jimenez (following a lead off walk) but he (Jimenez) induced Jeter to ground into a double play, allowing the runner from third to score. However the Orioles did show some signs of life, specifically with heads-up base running by Adam Jones after he reached base with a single. Chris Davis would later foul out to left field, however the ball was deep enough to where Jones knew he could tag up and go to second base. Matt Wieters followed that up with a single, tying the game at one.
However New York wasn’t about to have the Orioles spoil their home opener, and Alfonso Soriano scored in the last of the inning on an RBI-single. An inning later Derek Jeter would lead off with a double, and would later score on an Ellsbury RBI-single. After Jimenez walked former
Oriole Brian Roberts to load the bases, Buck Showalter emerged from the dugout to lift the tired starter in favor of Zach Britton. However Britton greeted the New York lineup in similar fashion, walking in a run on Kelly Johnson‘s at-bat. The Orioles would put together a mini-rally in the seventh with Nelson Cruz’s RBI-single (scoring Chris Davis), however that would end the scoring for the day as the O”s fell 4-2.
It’s worth mentioning that this game was not merely lost by Jimenez not going deep into the game. It’s easy to point to that, but the O’s had opportunities to put more than two runs on the board as well. I mentioned Nelson Cruz getting doubled-up at first base earlier; Jonathan Schoop hit a two-out double in the fifth, only to have NY catcher Brian McCann throw behind him and pick him off at second base (for the final out of the inning). It’s worth mentioning that Schoop was the bottom of the order, so that brought David Lough and the top of the order back to the plate. It’s easy to point at the starting pitching and only the starting pitching because that’s what we always point out, however each win and each loss are team efforts. In Schoop’s case he was actually in scoring position; the runs that he and Nelson Cruz represented would have tied the game – all things being equal, that is.
One big bright spot for the Birds continued to be Zach Britton, who although he walked in a run, was spotless in his two innings of work. Britton’s hard sinker has been much more effective through spring training and into league play than it ever was as a starting pitcher. Granted all pitchers would prefer to start, however you’d be hard-pressed to argue that Britton hasn’t been light’s out in the ‘pen thus far. Ryan Webb was also strong in relief over 1.1 innings; overall
while Jimenez put the bullpen in a bad spot with his short outing, Britton and Webb saved some arms for the rest of the season with their strong efforts.
The O’s will look to get a better result than they did last week out of Wei-Yin Chen this afternoon as the series continues at 1 PM in the Bronx. He’ll be opposed by Ivan Nova of New York, in a rare mid-week afternoon matinee.
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