If you were expecting Ubaldo Jimenez to pick up where he left off last start, you probably came away from this evening's proceedings a little disappointed. In day two of the benevolent era of Caleb Joseph, Ubaldo appeared to revert to form, but he was able to hold the Rays to one run and win ugly.
The Orioles came out hacking in the first against David Price and quickly logged two outs, but Nelson Cruz was able to get a single in an extended (for the Orioles) at bat. Adam Jones worked Price for six pitches, but his at bat was abruptly ended when Cruz was caught stealing. Between innings, Rays pitching coach Jim Hickey was ejected for arguing with the umpire that the last pitch to Jones was a strike and therefore Jones had struck out. It was that kind of night.
The Rays would strike first in the bottom of the inning, nickle and diming Jimenez with singles and taking advantage of Joseph with the speedy Desmond Jennings. The lead was short lived. In the second inning, J.J. Hardy smoked a two out double and Steve Pearce then clubbed a 3-2 pitch over the left field fence to give the O's a 2-1 lead. Ubaldo muddled through the bottom half of the inning, threatening to give up the lead, but holding fast.
While not exactly a tautly played pitcher's duel, Price and Jimenez gamely sparred a few innings with each putting on runners and opportunely wriggling out of the periodic jam. The O's made a mini-rally stick in the fourth, though, as Jones and Pearce were able to sandwich a couple outs with sharp grounders at Evan Longoria that would go down in the book as singles. Jonathan Schoop then singled up the middle to drive in Jones. Almost on cue, Jimenez followed up with a 1-2-3 inning. It was his only such inning on the night.
Just when it looked like Jimenez was maybe going to be in a position to earn his second straight quality start, he got himself into quite the pickle in the bottom of the fifth when he walked a batter and Desmond Jennings caused a little havoc with a well-placed bunt. What Jimenez didn't need was to hit a batter, but he did it anyways. This would bring up a bases loaded situation with Longoria coming to bat...the perfect chance for Tampa's franchise player to earn a little payback. It was not meant to be, however, as Longoria hit into a double play executed to perfection by J.J. Hardy with a big save by Pearce on a throw off the mark by Schoop. Joe Maddon would challenge the play in vain.
The O's were able to chase Price with no outs in the top of the 6th as he walked Hardy and allowed sharply hit singles to Jones and Matt Wieters. For what seems like the hundredth time this series, the Rays escaped unscathed as Brad Boxberger came on in relief and struck out Pearce, Schoop and Joseph. On nine pitches, no less! Jimenez was able to do one better as he managed an out before being pulled in the bottom of the sixth with two on. Ryan Webb was able to end the inning without allowing the Rays to get back on the board. Webb and Brian Matusz would manage to claw their way out of another tense situation in the seventh. Matusz pitched a perfect eighth.
The O's seemed on the verge of imminent collapse all night and this trend would continue into the ninth with Darren O'Day claiming the rare save opportunity. After putting on the first two batters, O'Day coaxed Desmond Jennings into grounding into a double play. Matt Joyce would end the game shortly thereafter by grounding into the shift on the next pitch.
If there's a positive to take away from Jimenez's outing, it's that he didn't hurt himself too badly (2 BB, HBP) and he was really able to work his sinker well for a second consecutive outing (8 groundball outs). Nick Markakis also extended his hitting streak to 15 games and O'Day picked up his second save of the season.
Oh, and the Orioles maintained their grip on first place in the AL East and are now 5-0 against Tampa this season.