I’ve been an Ubaldo Jimenez apologist for the past year or so.
Mainly because I was tired of all the people last year who suggested the Orioles should cut him in May or June and eat $20 million-plus or so. Silliness.
My rationale at the time is that releasing him would be a terrible move financially, especially considering Jimenez had a track record of going on a dominant run – basically out of nowhere – that could help carry a team. And the Orioles couldn’t pay him to make that potential run for another club on their dime.
The Orioles held on to Jimenez and he made my point for me, posting a 2.82 ERA in the second half. He had a 3-1 record and 2.35 ERA in five September starts, helping the Orioles get to the postseason.
This season, his contract year, I thought Jimenez would pitch well, or at least better than he has in any of his previous three seasons as an Oriole.
It sure hasn’t started that way. Jimenez allowed three runs in 3 1/3 innings Monday night against the Tampa Bay Rays, surrendered a homer on his fifth pitch and pushed his ERA of 5.95 through four starts.
The frustration that is Ubaldo was encapsulated perfectly this week. Last Wednesday, he threw 7 2/3 shutout innings and allowed just two hits. Monday, he couldn’t throw a strike – he only threw 35 in 78 pitches – and didn’t get out of the fourth.
What was the difference?
“I didn’t have a good grip tonight. I wasn’t able to throw any breaking balls for strikes,” Jimenez said. “I think I only threw a couple good splits, but besides that I couldn’t get a grip on the sinker or the breaking balls.”
Yes, it was a terrible day to pitch. A constant, chilling rain that made gripping the ball difficult. In one sense, Jimenez deserves a pass on Monday (Archer wasn’t good either, allowing five runs in 6 2/3).
“I don’t like to use anything like that as an excuse,” Jimenez said of the weather. “But I didn’t have a grip (on the ball). I couldn’t get a grip.”
Part may have been nature. But part is always mechanics with Jimenez. When his mechanics are out of whack, he can’t throw strikes.
I’m not abandoning my positive prediction on Jimenez yet – a season is not made in four April (or five September) starts. But even I can’t condone an inning like the fourth, when he faced eight batters and walked four. He walked the No. 9 hitter, Derek Norris, who entered the game batting .173. Jimenez just failed to attack the zone all evening, with his sinker continually hitting the dirt.
There will be better days for Jimenez, I’m sure. And, to the chagrin of some fans, there will be more days for Jimenez as an Oriole. I’m sure of that, too.
With Jimenez, there will be some good and some bad. We all know that. But, boy, the bad can be downright awful at times.
Showalter calls Monday “one of our best wins”
Orioles manager Buck Showalter rarely champions one win over any other.
It seems like every time a reporter tries to ask him if a certain victory was particularly important or inspiring, he shoots down the concept.
On Monday, though, Showalter praised his team in what he said was, “one of our best wins this year.”
What? And why is that?
Why was an April victory over a middling Tampa Rays team so inspiring?
Well, because the Orioles just came off an emotionally draining series against the Boston Red Sox. They were playing in absolutely crappy weather with a crowd that was announced at 11,142 (tickets sold), but was certainly smaller than that.
And the Orioles battled back to beat an excellent pitcher in Archer.
So, Showalter was a little more effusive about a single victory than he usually is.
“Tough series over the weekend. You come here tonight and you know it’s going to be cold and nasty. A lot of people (fans) probably look at the weather and (decide to stay home),” Showalter said. “We were going to have to really be ready to play, and our guys were. I was really proud of them tonight. That’s a tough game to win and our guys figured out a way. That was impressive.”
Homer-centric sometimes works
Another frustration for Orioles fans is the offense’s seeming reliance on the home run.
Well, it’s a frustration when it doesn’t work. On Monday, the Orioles had just seven hits, but three were homers, accounting for four runs. And they fought back from a 3-1 deficit to win 6-3.
It’s why these Orioles are never really out of games.
Sure, there are times when the ball isn’t flying out of the park, the strikeouts mount and the offense completely shuts down.
But then there are nights like Monday, when Jonathan Schoop, Adam Jones and even Hyun Soo Kim, take a pitch for a ride.
The homer can quickly make up for a lot of deficiencies. And, if you’re still grousing about relying on the homer, know this: The Orioles’ other two runs Monday were on productive outs.
It’s a pretty full show, I’ll say that.
Brittany Ghiroli, Orioles beat writer for mlb.com, gives her insight into the season, and her thoughts on the weekend mashup with the Red Sox.
I also include interviews with Zach Britton and Manny Machado about what happened against Boston, and a discussion with lefty Wade Miley about his hot start.
Despite his high ERA, the Orioles are actually 4-0 in Jimenez’s starts this season. They just can’t lose with Ubaldo on the mound. … By the last out, the announced crowd was down to about 142. Give major credit to those that stayed through the driving rain. … The Orioles have three back-to-back homers this season. Schoop has been involved in all of them (Monday with Kim and twice with Trey Mancini). … Adam Jones picked up his 1,500th career hit. That’s some impressive compiling for a guy who is only 31.