For the first time in 2014, the Baltimore Orioles and their fans got to see the version of Ubaldo Jimenez that they thought they were getting when they signed the right hander. Jimenez’s line: 7.1 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 10 K. Yeah, you didn’t read the last part of that stat line incorrectly, and it’s not a typo; Jimenez struck out ten batters last night. That’s a far cry from the pitcher who couldn’t find the strike zone in April. However statistically Jimenez has always struggled in the first month of the season, but he tends to come around in May and onward. If last night is any indication, that trend is continuing.
Interestingly, the Batlimore Orioles faced a pitcher in Ricky Nolasco who pitched a complete game in a losing effort. The O’s only used Ubaldo Jimenez and two relievers (Zach Britton – for two hitters – and Tommy Hunter), however with both teams coming off of doubleheaders on Thursday one would think that might give Minnesota a very slight advantage going into the other two games this series. It might stand to reason that the O’s would stay away from Hunter in today’s game unless they absolutely have to summon him from the pen, as he had to labor just a bit in the ninth last night.
The Birds looked to give Jimenez run support early following Nick Markakis‘ single when Manny Machado sent a deep shot to dead center field. However Minnesota’s center fielder Sam Fuld made a spectacular catch while crashing into the wall, robbing Machado of what almost certainly would have been an RBI-double (if not a triple). However the Orioles broke through in the top of the fourth when Nelson Cruz led off with a double. Matt Wieters would follow with a double of his own, and the O’s had a 1-0 lead. However one thing we’ve seen from the O’s this year at various points has been that they haven’t scored often enough and ended up losing. In his next at-bat Cruz made sure that didn’t happen. Machado led off the sixth with his first base hit of the 2014 season, and Cruz followed with a two-run homer that hit off the facade of the third deck in Target Field’s outfield, and the O’s led 3-0.
However unbeknownst to the Orioles at the time, even that 1-0 lead would have been enough.
Ubaldo Jimenez was on his game, and he quickly mowed Minnesota hitters down. He lasted until giving up a one-out double in the eighth, and Buck Showalter went to Zach Britton – who picked up right where Jimenez left off. Tommy Hunter came on in the last of the ninth and despite giving up a lead off double, he closed out Minnesota for the Orioles’ victory.
Not that it matters – because in May it really doesn’t – but with the victory and New York’s loss to Tampa, the Baltimore Orioles are now in first place by half a game. If you’re an Oriole fan it’s certainly nice to see the O’s on top of the division. However I can’t stress enough that it’s May. The Birds will play game two of this series in Minnesota this afternoon at 2 PM (EST) with Wei-Yin Chen on the mound. He’ll be opposed by Minnesota’s Kevin Correia.