Myriad Orioles Thoughts: Ubaldo's unexpected heroics, an offensive power surge, and Hardy's injury - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Paul Folkemer

Myriad Orioles Thoughts: Ubaldo’s unexpected heroics, an offensive power surge, and Hardy’s injury

Photo credit: Joy R. Absalon

After a seemingly endless string of poor outings from their starting pitchers, the Orioles got a much-needed shot in the arm Sunday from … Ubaldo Jimenez.

Just what everyone expected, right?

Jimenez’s return to the Orioles’ rotation was a rousing success, as he delivered a seven-inning, two-run gem against the St. Louis Cardinals to lead his club to a series victory. He was the first Orioles’ hurler to deliver a quality start since Dylan Bundy on June 9, and the first to work seven innings since Wade Miley on June 1.

When Jimenez left the mound after the seventh, he received a standing ovation from the Camden Yards crowd of 34,854 — a welcome change from the often critical reception he’s received from fans after his previous failures.

“It felt good, especially [because] today is Father’s Day, so it was a good day,” Jimenez said. “I understand it’s part of the game. When things are not going the way you want it to go, of course you won’t have a lot of people rooting for you. But it’s part of the game.”

Jimenez held the Cardinals to four hits, and might’ve had a scoreless outing if not for Stephen Piscotty, who tagged him for a pair of solo home runs. Jimenez kept his composure on a balmy 88-degree Baltimore afternoon.

“He was good,” manager Buck Showalter said. “I can’t tell you how few pitchers in baseball would’ve pitched seven innings in that type of weather, heat. That was pretty remarkable. … He never gave in. He knew what we needed, and he delivered it.”

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“It was a really tough day to pitch,” Jimenez said. “It was hot out there. Everything was carrying. If you leave something hanging, it’s going to be out of the park. I think that’s why I had such a pretty good game today, because my sinker was down in the zone, and [Welington] Castillo was calling a great game.”

Jimenez’s start was his first since May 22, when a four-inning, six-run outing inflated his ERA to 7.17 and relegated him to bullpen duty. Jimenez made four relief appearances and was scored upon in each, but he returned to an Orioles’ rotation desperately seeking a solution to its recent struggles.

“He may not admit it, but there’s kind of a mental edge there,” Showalter said. “Taking a step back and [thinking], ‘The club needs me to deliver something.'”

Last season, after Jimenez was banished to the bullpen in August, he returned to the rotation at the end of the year and posted a 3.12 ERA in eight starts. The Orioles are hoping his bullpen hiatus will yield similar results this season.

“That’s what happened last year, and it feels like this year I’m being able to do the same,” Jimenez said. “I feel really good. My mechanics are good, my pitches are good, so I guess [the bullpen stint] helped.”

The Orioles’ offense comes alive

The ball was flying out of the park Sunday, as the two teams combined for eight home runs.

“Since I’ve been here, I’ve never seen the ball carry like it carried today,” Showalter said. “I don’t think there’s a tougher place to play in the summer for about a month than this place.”

Leadoff man Seth Smith set the tone with a leadoff blast in the first. After all, it’s only fitting that a player nicknamed “Dad” would hit a leadoff homer on Father’s Day.

“[The ball] was carrying really well,” Smith said. “It’s good for the hitters and not so good for the pitchers. I’m a hitter, so it was good for me.”

By the fifth inning, the Orioles were battering deep flies to all expanses of the ballpark. That included a memorable five-batter stretch consisting of an Adam Jones triple, a Mark Trumbo home run, a Trey Mancini triple, a Jonathan Schoop would-be homer that was caught by a leaping Dexter Fowler, and a Castillo home run. That brutal sequence chased Cardinals starter Lance Lynn from the game with a season-worst seven runs allowed.

The two triples might have been more impressive than the two home runs that inning. The Orioles aren’t a particularly fast team and their home ballpark doesn’t lend itself to triples, so collecting a pair of three-baggers in the same inning was a rare feat.

It was the first time the Orioles have hit two triples in one inning since Aug. 14, 2009, when Cesar Izturis and Felix Pie both tripled in the seventh in a 16-6 win. Pie’s triple completed his hitting for the cycle that night.

After getting held to two runs and five hits in the series opener Friday, the Orioles’ offense torched the Cardinals’ pitching staff. The Orioles handed Adam Wainwright the shortest start of his career Saturday — racking him for nine runs in 1 2/3 innings — before roughing up Lynn, who entered the game with a 2.69 ERA, fourth-best in the NL.

In the last two games, the Orioles have erupted for 24 runs and 26 hits, including nine home runs. With Trumbo’s fifth-inning homer, his 10th, the Orioles now have six players with 10 or more round-trippers this season. Trumbo joins Chris Davis (14), Manny Machado (13), Schoop (13) and Mancini (12).

The home run barrage is good to see for the Orioles, who thus far this season haven’t matched the pace of last year’s league-leading homer team. The club entered Sunday ranked fifth in the AL with 95 long balls, a solid total but not a spectacular one for an offense that prides itself on its power. Those numbers are now beginning to change for the better.

As for the Cardinals, they’ve now lost the last two games 15-7 and 8-5. In their previous visit to Baltimore in 2014, they gave up 25 runs, 41 hits and nine homers in a three-game series.

The Cardinals likely won’t be scheduled to make another interleague visit to Camden Yards for several years. And that’s probably just fine with them.

Hardy hurt

An injury to shortstop J.J. Hardy put a damper on the festivities. Hardy was hit in the hand by a Lynn pitch in the fourth inning and had to leave the game in the sixth with a right wrist contusion.

The Orioles are awaiting more tests, but after the game, they weren’t optimistic about the injury.

“Not good,” Showalter said. “We took an X-ray here and saw something that concerned us. He’s got a [CT] scan in the morning, and we’ll have a little more definitive idea there. … We’ll hope for some better news than what we first thought.”

Hardy, who missed parts of 2015 and 2016 with injuries, had been healthy all season until Sunday. He’s batting .211 with a .556 OPS in 64 games this season, the last of a three-year deal with the Orioles.

15 Comments

15 Comments

  1. Boog Robinson Robinson

    June 18, 2017 at 6:26 pm

    Jimenez haters …. what do you have to say today? Like it or not, we need this man. Let’s not be so fast to want him jettisoned.

    • Steve Cockey

      June 18, 2017 at 6:36 pm

      Agreed here, Boog. Given how bad their other options are, it makes sense to keep Ubaldo and hope for a hot streak.

    • OsFanStuckInNY

      June 18, 2017 at 10:12 pm

      He sure stepped up today. Congratulations!
      Onward and upward!!

    • Bancells Moustache

      June 19, 2017 at 11:31 am

      Oh dear God Boog, you aren’t really gonna fall for this again are you? If, at this point, you still think the random solid Jimenez performance indicates his “finally figuring it out’, there’s an African prince with 10,000,000 dollars who would love to start an email correspondence with you.

      • Boog Robinson Robinson

        June 19, 2017 at 1:40 pm

        Have you a better option? Asher looks worse than Ubaldo. Mike Wright and Tyler Wilson aren’t the answer. I said it last year, and I’ll say it again, unless we can pry Kershaw out of LA, I’d rather go down with Ubaldo than any of the bums we currently have under contract.

        So … do you have a valid email for this African Prince of yours?

    • JustWin8

      June 19, 2017 at 5:05 pm

      I say the odds of UJ being awful in his next outing is high. It’s fools gold thinking he can be consistently decent

  2. Stacey

    June 18, 2017 at 7:00 pm

    I know JJ has been bad at the plate this year (perhaps an understatement) but this injury really stinks. Based on Buck’s comments it sounds like it could be a broken bone, which makes me sad.

    It always seems that when JJ is on the DL the defense takes a tumble. I don’t know if there is a way to quantify that, but it seems to be true. And the defense is already in trouble!

  3. Joesvape247

    June 18, 2017 at 9:52 pm

    JJ got hurt. Oh my I am going to cry myself to sleep!

  4. Joesvape247

    June 18, 2017 at 9:55 pm

    Of course I wish Hardy wasn’t hurt But I would take just about anybody over Hardy playing shortstop. He looks and is playing like a fossil. He can’t hit for avg, he has 4 HR this season, and he hasn’t even been better then a replacement level player defensively! I think it is a blessing in disguise.

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      June 19, 2017 at 7:35 am

      What are you thinking “it’s a blessing”? Yeah ’cause Tejada is an all-star in the making I suppose.

      Me-thinks Joe may be vaping the funny stuff!

      • Bancells Moustache

        June 19, 2017 at 11:35 am

        Yeah, even with JJ’s struggles this year, thinking of Ruben “they changed the rules because I decided to go prancing backwards over 2d in a playoff game and Chase Utley wrecked me as a result” Tejada as any sort of upgrade is difficult to reconcile indeed. Wouldn’t mind getting a peek at Mountcastle though…

        • Boog Robinson Robinson

          June 19, 2017 at 1:42 pm

          I 2nd the Mountcastle proposal.

        • Paul Folkemer

          June 19, 2017 at 1:48 pm

          I think Mountcastle’s ETA isn’t until at least 2018. He’s only at Frederick right now. There’s no chance we’ll see him in the bigs this year.

          Besides, the Orioles still need to figure out what position he’ll play in the majors. By all accounts, he’s not a legitimate shortstop defensively. I think they need to move him to a new position — be it LF, 2B, or whatever else — sooner rather than later so he can get comfortable there.

  5. Raymo

    June 19, 2017 at 4:04 pm

    Put Mountcastle at 2nd, Schoop at 3rd, and Manny at SS.

    • Paul Folkemer

      June 19, 2017 at 4:24 pm

      I repeat: Ryan Mountcastle is not coming to the majors to replace Hardy right now. Not happening. He’s playing Single-A ball right now. As great a season as he’s having offensively, he’s not ready for the majors either with the bat or the glove. And there’s no reason to start his service clock this early.

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