When the Orioles traded for outfielder Seth Smith in January, the primary reason was because the lineup desperately needed another hitter that could do the little things to help a team win.
Someone who could get on base and have professional at-bats – especially against right-handers — and, if he hit some home runs, well, that’d be gravy. The Orioles didn’t need another slugger, it needed another smart hitter.
In the top of the seventh Friday, with the New York Yankees leading 5-4, the Orioles had the perfect spot for Smith. And he came through – with a side of game-winning gravy.
Jonathan Schoop led off the seventh by advancing to second base on a throwing error by Yankees third baseman Chase Headley.
J.J. Hardy followed with a sacrifice bunt to move Schoop to third base with one out.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter doesn’t always utilize the bunt, but he felt the Orioles needed to score in the seventh – or the Orioles would have to face the brutal combo of Dellin Betances and Aroldis Chapman in the eighth and ninth while trailing by a run.
Hardy did his job, and that brought Smith to the plate against New York right-hander Tyler Clippard, who hadn’t allowed a hit to Smith in five previous at-bats.
But Smith did have four walks against Clippard. And Smith worked the count in this one – going ahead 2-1 before Clippard threw a 90-mph fastball over the plate. Smith turned on it, depositing it over the right-field scoreboard for an eventual 6-5 win.
“You hope to hit a fly ball, but really you’re just trying to hit the ball hard,” Smith said. “It’s too tough to try to dictate exactly where the ball goes, but I was able to get that one in the air.”
He was able to do exactly what the Orioles brought him here to do – in just the third game of the season.
“It’s nice coming up with a runner on third, less than two and being able to come through. You’ve got a job to do there, especially late in the game,” Smith said. “You want to make sure you do something to score that run. It won’t always happen like that, but that’s certainly what you’re trying to do.”
Jimenez gets off to rocky start
I swear I remember some moron writing recently on this site that Ubaldo Jimenez was going to have his best season in an Orioles’ uniform this year.
Well, it didn’t start that way.
Jimenez didn’t get out of the fifth on Friday. He allowed five runs on seven hits and one walk while striking out five batters. He surrendered a pair of two-run homers – to Matt Holliday and Gary Sanchez – and would have been saddled with the loss if he hadn’t been rescued by a three-run homer from Manny Machado and Smith’s blast.
“Capable of better. You try to give guys a little pass with the weather. You’ve got to have a feel for the split with that weather. Both home runs were splits that didn’t split properly,” Showalter said of Jimenez. “Capable of better. Hopefully when the weather warms up, he gets a better feel for it. Because he had a good one in the spring.”
Jimenez confirmed after the game that both home run pitches were split-finger fastballs that didn’t break. But, being the stand-up guy he is, Jimenez didn’t make any excuses for the disappointing outing.
“I think (the sub-40s temperatures and high winds) was difficult for everyone. I’m not the only one that had to go through that,” Jimenez said. “Our pitching staff did and they did well and the Yankee pitching staff had to go through that, too. (The weather is) not an excuse. I just hung two splitters and they made me pay for it.”
Hart’s first win
Lefty reliever Donnie Hart was one of the Orioles’ best stories last year. A 27th round pick in 2013 that skipped Triple-A last year and allowed just one run in 22 games for the Orioles (0.49 ERA).
One thing Hart didn’t get last year, though, was a big league win.
That came Friday, in his first game of 2017 and 23rd as a major leaguer. He faced two batters and retired one in the seventh inning – and ended up with the W.
“It really hasn’t sunk in yet. It’s one of those things you are going to look back on it and cherish it and enjoy it,” Hart said. “You can’t really put that into words. It’s something you work for all your life, and it’s pretty cool to have that under my belt.”
Hart’s part of an Orioles’ bullpen that hasn’t allowed a run this season in its first 12 1/3 innings. On Friday, Brad Brach struck out the side in the eighth and Zach Britton picked up his 51st consecutive save – tied for fourth most since the stat became official in 1969 – with a perfect ninth.
“It’s kind of our motto down there, give it to the next guy and do your job,” Hart said. “So, everyone else can do their job.”