Ubaldo Jimenez gave the Baltimore Orioles a deep outing, a quality start, and a victory over Minnesota.
Rumors of Ubaldo Jimenez‘s demise may well have been premature so far as the Baltimore Orioles are concerned. Jimenez gave the Birds perhaps their strongest start of the 2016 season thus far, as the O’s came back to defeat Minnesota 4-2 last night. I know, small sample size – very small sample size at that. But speaking for myself I saw some things out of Jimenez last night that should give fans some hope.
Jimenez was strong from the outset, but he also was just a little unsure of himself. I know that doesn’t exactly make the most sense, but Jimenez seemed to work a little too hard to hit spots early in the game. Jimenez’s line: 7 IP, 8 H, 2 R (one earned), 0 BB, 9 K.
Make no mistake about the fact that those nine strikeouts are incredibly impressive. Jimenez was dealing early, recording two quick outs to start the game. Then he hung a fastball, which Minnesota’s Mauer hit out of the ballpark. In the second inning Jimenez allowed runners to second and third, and a Buxton groundout got a second run home.
Call to the Pen
Again, Jimenez might have overworked just a bit to hit his spots. But then he really started dealing, and in effect he started pitching. At one point he retired nine straight hitters. And even when he had his mini-struggles early in the game, Jimenez minimized the damage. The Mauer homer came with nobody on base, and he managed to get out of the situation with two runners in scoring position by only giving up one run.
However on the flip side the O’s had trouble mustering anything either. At one point Joey Rickard even got a hit with a runner in scoring position – but the runner had to hold up at third. The Orioles have to lead the league over the past few seasons in situations like there where they get a hit with a runner at second base and that runner can’t score.
Finally in the last of the sixth Manny Machado bashed a solo home run to cut the Minnesota lead to 2-1. The O’s would proceed to cover the corners with one gone in the seventh, when the skies opened up. The game was delayed for twenty minutes or so – in effect the amount of time to put the tarp on the field, and then take it back off.
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When play resumed and Minnesota had changed pitchers, the Orioles were able to tie the game on a wild pitch. And that’s one of the things that can happen when you get traffic on the base paths, which illustrates how important it is to get on base. Later in the inning, Jonathan Schoop‘s RBI-single would plate the go-ahead run, and the O’s took a 3-2 lead.
For good measure, Rickard would uncork his first big league homer in the eighth, and the O’s would go onto win 4-2. Rickard reluctantly took a curtain call after going back to the dugout, something he later admitted that he wasn’t sure he was supposed to do (quote courtesy of Steve Melewski, MASNsports):
"I kind of kept looking around at my teammates to get the okay. What should I do? I finally looked over to J.J. (Hardy). He just pointed up. I’m like, ‘I gotta do it.’ I listen to him. He’s been around. He knows what to do. So as soon as he did that, I understood. I had to go up there."
I totally understand Rickard’s point there; you don’t want to come across as arrogant and over-celebratory, however on a certain level if the fans are calling your name like they were with Rickard it could be looked at as disrespectful if you don’t come out. Needless to say, it was quite a moment for the kid – his first big league home run.
And it was quite a moment for Ubaldo Jimenez, who may have calmed a lot of fears with his perforamance last night. And again, I would submit that the best part of it was that early on he did make a few mistakes. Just a few – nothing fatal. But he worked through that and turned in exactly the type of outing of which many folks thought he and this entire staff was incapable. Needless to say after going 0-7 against Minnesota last year, the Orioles swept them to start the season in 2016.
The O’s will open up a three-game set with Tampa this evening at Camden Yards. Chris Tillman (who of course was only able to last two innings due to the rain on Opening Day) will get the ball for the O’s, and he’ll be opposed by Tampa’s Chris Archer. Game time is set for just after 7 PM.