Baltimore Orioles: Familiar Pattern After Ubaldo Jimenez Leaves


First off I saw a few tweets flying around during last night’s game to the effect that the Baltimore Orioles are running out of time to fix their struggles. Nothing could be further from the truth; like the Birds, every other team in the division has been incredibly inconsistent. While it would help the Orioles to take command of things and get ahead of some of these teams, the fact is that they’ve just begun to fight.

Unfortunately I find myself consistently eating my words this year, as I’m seemingly proven wrong on a nightly basis. In fact, it seems that the only things I”m saying correctly are my predictions about the Orioles’ opponents. For so long I’ve said that the O’s will go as far as their starting pitching will take them. Their starting pitching has been stellar; but they’re struggling. Instead I tweeted several times last night that Houston scores 40% of their runs in the seventh inning or later. Low and behold…

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…but before we get to that I should mention how good Ubaldo Jimenez was last night. Jimenez’s line: 6 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 8 K. Jimenez was throwing first-pitch strikes and getting ahead in the count right off the bat. He fooled Houston hitters nearly his entire start, which is the narrative he’s followed mainly all season.

Offensively the Orioles had their chances, yet anything that could go wrong seemed to go south quickly. David Lough got picked off first base with nobody out and Adam Jones at the plate in the fourth, which ran the O’s right out of a potential scoring chance. However they were able to break through in the fifth when Ryan Flaherty’s RBI-triple gave the Birds a 1-0 lead. However Houston then turned to the anything you can do I can do better mode, and tied the game in the last of the inning on Luis Valbuena’s solo homer.

Following an Adam Jones walk and a Delmon Young single in the sixth, Chris Davis nearly homered over the right field wall – but the ball hit the top of the wall and bounced back into the field of play. With the configuration of the park, it stood to reason that both runners might score on a ball to that area. However Davis hit the ball so hard that only Jones could score. While that gave the Birds a 2-1 lead, it also shows how this can be a game of inches. A few inches higher and that’s a three-run homer. If it’s hit just a bit softer, it’s a two-RBI double.

Steve Pearce and Caleb Joseph would record two quick outs to end the inning, however the O’s blew a shot at a bigger inning with two runners in scoring position. And again, Houston makes a habbit of scoring lots of runs (40% of their total runs scored) in the seventh inning of later. Two runs just wasn’t going to cut it for the Birds.

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Colorado Rockies: Ubaldo Jimenez sails off into retirement
Colorado Rockies: Ubaldo Jimenez sails off into retirement /

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    Chris Carter singled to lead off the seventh for Houston, which brought Buck Showalter onto the field to lift Jimenez. In retrospect, jimenez might have had a bit left in the tank – his body langauge as he walked off the field seemed to indicate that he did. However Showalter lifted Jimenez at 91 pitches so as to protect him from himself. A guy who pitched as dominantly as he had deserved the dignity of not being allowed to lose the game.

    Furthermore Brad Brach had been strong for the O’s. Of course in the back of your head you had to think so that means at a certain point he’s due a poor outing, right? And those poor outings generally hit when they’re needed least. Brach started Luis Valbuena off with a walk, and Hank Conger loaded the bases with a single. George Springer’s RBI-single tied the game at two, and Houston took the lead on Jose Altuve’s sac fly-RBI.

    Evan Gattis’ two-RBI single ran the score to 5-2, which of course was the final. Again, hindsight is 20/20. It’s so easy to say that Showalter shouldn’t have lifted Jimenez when he did. However that’s being said with the benefit of knowing the result. That aside, let’s not kid ourselves into thinking that Houston wanted this game more than the Orioles, or that they were hungrier. That’s an easy trap to fall into, and again in saying things as such we also have the benefit of knowing the results.

    Houston knows the stats as well as I do; they’re well aware of the fact that they score a lot of runs in the later innings. Heck, Buck Showalter knows it as well; which is probably part of the reason he lifted Jimenez. But there’s an aura around this Houston team whereby they seem to sit back and let the opponent manuever their way out of games. So while their opponents (the Orioles in this case) are wheeling and dealing in an attempt to stop them from late-game heroics, they’re just playing. Interesting to say the least.

    Adam Jones returned to the lineup as the DH last night, in hopes that he can be back in the field this evening. However the Orioles were without the services of J.J. Hardy, who apparently had some pain in his side that concerned Showalter. So once again the Birds weren’t at full strength at the plate. The series will continue this evening with Mike Wright on the mound for the O’s. He’ll be opposed by Collin McHugh, with game time being set for just after 8 PM.

    Next: Baltimore Orioles: Are Infield Shifts Hurting Baseball?

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