Baltimore Orioles: Ubaldo Jimenez saves the pen in loss

Ubaldo Jimenez did a huge service to the Baltimore Orioles’ bullpen yesterday with his performance. And yes, there is some irony in the fact that this was to be Jimenez’s normal turn in the rotation, had he not been demoted to the bullpen. Instead the Birds turned to Alec Asher, who didn’t last long. Asher’s line: 2.0 IP, 6 H, 6 R, 1 BB, 1 K.

The Orioles actually had a 3-0 lead in this game, which if you look at the box score lasted about as long as it took Houston to go through the batting order once. After everyone got a look at Asher, they seemed to figure him out. But the Birds got a two-run homer from Jonathan Schoop in the first to take a 2-0 lead.

Schoop would come to bat again in the second inning and smack an RBI-single to make it 3-0. The O’s looked like they were off to the races, and ready to break their six-game losing streak. However that second inning overall cost the Orioles the game. The O’s loaded the bases and had seven men come to the plate – yet they only scored one run.

They also say that your enemies get fat on what you leave behind. In the last of the second, Asher issued a lead off single. He then proceeded to have Beltran right where he wanted him in the next at-bat at 0-2. But Beltran wasn’t about to get cheated, and ended up drawing a walk. Singles and/or walks are easily fixable in the minds of the Orioles because a ground ball double-play is in order. But it’s also exactly what a small ball team like Houston covets, because every base runner is a potential run.

Asher would proceed to strike out Gattis, but the pitch got away and ended up a wild pitch. The two runners on base both advanced into scoring position, and would score on Gonzalez’s subsequent two-RBI double. Gurriel’s RBI-double a moment later would tie the game, and Houston took a 5-3 lead on Springer’s two-run homer.

Before the smoke cleared in that second inning, it was 6-3 on Altuve’s RBI-single. Mind you, the Orioles had an opportunity to blow the game wide open. But the Orioles aren’t hitting-for-power right now – and incidentally, Minute Maid Park has always been a house of horrors for this team. The Birds couldn’t take advantage of the opportunity that they had, and Houston was happy to oblige instead.

That inning ended Asher’s day, and the Orioles turned back to Jimenez, who appeared to get out of the third inning unscathed after a 1-4-3 double-play. But Houston challenged that the runner was out at second base, and the call was overturned. Again, Houston seems to take advantage of every opportunity it gets. Gurriel smacked an RBI-single to run the score to 7-3.

Later in the inning, Jimenez uncorked a wild pitch which scored a run and suddenly it was 8-3. However while that was ruled a wild pitch, to me it was one that the catcher Castillo should have gotten and smothered. It went right between his legs.

Other than that, Jimenez was solid. And he completed the remainder of the game for the Orioles, saving the rest of the bullpen. That shouldn’t go unnoticed. The Birds had to fly back to Baltimore last night, and they have an afternoon game against the NY Yankees today at Camden Yards – so a quick turnaround. Had this been a game where they had to use three or four relievers (even in a winning effort), they might have had to make a roster move before today’s game.

Incidentally, Mark Trumbo smacked a solo homer in the eighth to make the final score 8-4. It’s worth mentioning that just prior to that home run Manny Machado was rung up on a 3-2 pitch that was clearly off the plate. So all things being the same (and yes that’s a tough sell especially given that the pitcher would have been working out of the stretch with a runner on base) that should have brought the Orioles to 8-5. And you never know what happens from there.

The Orioles are obviously struggling right now, but it seems like every year right around May or June they go into a tailspin. At some point they always right the ship. So am I telling fans not to worry? It’s fine to be concerned, because they always right the ship…until they don’t, I suppose. But the track record of these players indicates that they will. So in a sense, yes I’m saying not to worry – too much, at least.

The O’s now open a three-game set at home against New York on this Memorial Day. Dylan Bundy will get the start for the Orioles, and he’ll be opposed by NY’s Jordan Montgomery. Game time is set for just after 1 PM this afternoon.

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