Sunday’s 12-3 victory over the Detroit Tigers is exactly the kind of game the Orioles needed to win.
They needed to be victorious on a day Ubaldo Jimenez gutted out a start.
It wasn’t good Ubaldo. It wasn’t bad Ubaldo. It was both just about every inning. Jimenez allowed two Tigers to reach base in all six of the frames he pitched. He gave up nine hits and walked three.
Yet Jimenez worked out of every jam. He allowed just one run – a solo homer to Nick Castellanos in the fifth inning after he struck out the first two batters of the inning.
“It wasn’t pretty, but I got the job done. I was happy that I was able to compete. And they didn’t make it easy for me at all,” Jimenez said. “They got a lot of hits. They took a good approach, hitting the ball to the opposite field. But our guys picked me up. Our guys scored a lot of runs and they played great defense.”
It’s impossible to truly understand the psyche of Jimenez. Going through the rough stretches he’s had in his time in Baltimore would have broken many pitchers. Jimenez, though, just keeps pushing through beyond the ether of all those stinkers, and ends up helping his team for periods.
And maybe he is on one of those runs now, like he compiled in his final eight starts of 2016, when he had a 2.39 ERA,
We all know the Good Ubaldo is in there, but he comes out too infrequently.
So, there is a positive to be gleaned when he doesn’t pitch well, but also doesn’t implode.
“It feels good,” Jimenez (5-7, 6.31 ERA) said. “It feels good to be able to go out there and it doesn’t matter how many runners I’ve got on base. I was able to minimize the damage. Because of the guys. They made great plays.”
It seems like when Jimenez is going poorly, every guy he walks scores. Every bad pitch he makes ends up as a souvenir. When things are bad, he can’t get out of his own way. Sunday was the opposite. He kept the runners from scoring and didn’t give back a huge lead.
“It kind of surprised me when I looked out there and saw nine hits. I thought he had pretty good stuff. He’s been carrying a good fastball for a long time. He’s been able to get back in some counts with a well-located fastball instead of a centered fastball. He made a lot of 2-0 quality fastball strikes today,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “And I didn’t think the split was quite there like it was before, but pitching with that lead, going out there and hanging zeroes after we score was a good mentality for our club.”
Jimenez has now allowed four earned runs in his past three games, a span of 18 2/3 innings (1.93 ERA). Maybe it’s a blip; maybe it’s a trend. Always impossible to know with Jimenez. But, as Showalter likes to say, it’s better than the alternative.
Power up, Orioles
You have to go back to 2012 for the last time an Oriole didn’t win the American League home run crown. That season, Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera mashed his way to the title with 44.
Every season since, an Oriole has led the league in homers, whether it was Chris Davis (2015 and 2013), Mark Trumbo (2016) or Nelson Cruz (2014).
Jonathan Schoop, who hit his team-leading 25th on Sunday, is gonna have to get white-hot to catch the New York Yankees’ Aaron Judge, who has 35, and the six players in between.
But it’s not as if the Orioles, after a middling power display early, aren’t still bashing the ball. They entered Sunday fifth in the AL in homers. Then hit five more, so at 160, they are tied with the Tampa Bay Rays for third in the league, trailing only the Houston Astros and the Texas Rangers in the AL.
“I don’t know where we are compared to last year and is it because everybody else is hitting more or less?” Showalter said. “I don’t even look at it. It’s about run production.”
The Orioles hit a majors’ best 253 homers last year, and at one point were on pace to surpass the all-time record (264 by the 1997 Seattle Mariners).
This year, they are one pace for 233, a lot but not record-breaking.
Still, what’s interesting about this lineup is it already has three with 20 or more, and three more guys with at least 17. So, they are likely to have six players hit the 20-home run plateau, the same as last year.
And that doesn’t include Tim Beckham, who has 15 homers, but the first 12 were with the Tampa Bay Rays.
“We were scuffling for a while. Nothing’s been going our way,” said Orioles third baseman Manny Machado, who hit his 20th homer and had five RBIs on Sunday. “We weren’t hitting homers. it’s just part of the game. There’s ups and downs to it, there’s a rollercoaster. Each guy tries to get on the wave and see what happens.”
Interesting tidbits about 10,000 O’s homers; 5,000 at home
Tim Beckham hit his third homer as an Oriole on Saturday, and it just happened to be the 10,000th in modern franchise history (dating back to 1954).
The Orioles’ put out a pretty cool infographic about the home runs.
Here are some of the highlights, or at least the ones that made me go. ‘huh?’
First basemen have hit the most homers in franchise history, 1,618. That’s not a surprise when sluggers such as Boog Powell, Eddie Murray, Rafael Palmeiro and Davis have played the position for the Orioles. Second most is right field (1,268), followed by left field (1,244).
Interesting to me that catcher (1,080) and center fielder (1,063) are so close. We think of catchers as having pop and center fielder as more of a speed position, but the Orioles have had some homer-hitting center fielders (Brady Anderson, Adam Jones) over the years.
Cal Ripken Jr. has the most home runs in O’s history (431), but neither shortstop nor third base – his two positions – were in Top 3. Shortstop (829) was the least homer-happy of regular positions; though pitchers, of course, were the lowest with 70 (designated hitters had 886).
The Orioles have homered most against the New York Yankees at home and most at Fenway Park on the road.
The breakdown of the first 10,000 at home was 2,490 at Memorial Stadium (1954-1991) and 2,505 at Camden Yards (1991-2017).
The Orioles were five shy of 5,000 at home heading into Sunday, but they took care of that with an onslaught against Detroit. Machado’s fourth-inning longball was the modern-day Orioles’ 5,000th in Baltimore.
They weren’t all hit Sunday. It just seemed like it.