When I was a little kid, my parents would take me to the zoo in Baltimore. As we made our way through the various zoo exhibits, we would invariably end the day by going through the hippo house. It is the worst thing I have ever smelled, an enclosed space where the stench of hippos permeated completely. There was no skipping the trip in to the hippo house, because where else are you going to be in close proximity to a hippopotamus? You have to see the hippos while you can.
I mention all of this tonight because Ubaldo Jimenez is the pitching equivalent of hippopotamus shit. Sometimes I might go into the hippopotamus house and not be as offended by the smell as my worst memory, but still, at all times, I was fully aware that I was being buffeted by the smell of hippo in a controlled environment. In much the same way, there are days where you can watch Jimenez and he's less terrible than the worst you've seen him, but you still can't escape the basic fact that he is what he is.
The big difference between the hippopotamus and Jimenez is that the hippo is this exotic creature from a distant, not-easily-accessible ecosystem, where Jimenez is just a pitcher who looks terrible. We have seen plenty of those pitchers and we do not care to see more.
The Orioles lost Friday's game to the Blue Jays by a 4-0 score. They were never in the game, would never be in the game. The hitters turned in one of their trademark pathetic performances, this time against Jays starter Drew Hutchison. And then, on the other hand ... Jimenez.
If you didn't watch him, if you're only checking the box score, you might not be aware of how bad he looked. If you saw those hippos through glass, you would not know the smell, either. Jimenez only gave up two runs in six innings, which is, on a results-based level, not so bad. That is a quality start, and it is not the bare minimum, 4.50 ERA.
The reason for that is that Ubaldo is a lucky man. He plays on the team that has turned more double plays than any other team in baseball. With guys like Jimenez pitching, they get plenty of chances with a man on first. They turned two in support of Jimenez tonight. This is the kind of thing you need to happen when your starting pitcher walks five batters in six innings. How does that even happen? The Orioles hitters are lucky to get five walks in 60 innings. They had no walks tonight.
It was the fourth start of the season where Jimenez has walked five batters. You have to work to get that outcome.
In retrospect, the game was over after Juan Francisco homered off Jimenez in the second inning, immediately following a one-out walk to Brett Lawrie. The Orioles never scored in the game, so 2-0 would have held for the night. More on that in a minute. Right after giving up that home run, Jimenez walked the next batter. Why does he hate us? The defense bailed him out with one of the double plays, but the damage was done.
Jimenez gave up only three hits in his six innings. The five free passes hurt. Even when a good-hitting team like the Jays swings at Jimenez's offerings, they had a hard time putting it safely in play. It's just, the free passes. They hurt.
As for the Orioles hitters, well, you're probably going to lose most of the time when you go 1-11 with runners in scoring position, which is precisely what they did tonight. The lone hit with RISP was an infield single by Manny Machado. No runs were coming in from second on that play. In a particularly frustrating sequence in the seventh inning, J.J. Hardy led off with a double and never advanced. Machado and Jonathan Schoop flew out by hacking at garbage on the first pitch. It hurts so much.
Adding to the night's misfortune was an appearance by Tommy Hunter, who was determined to show why he was kicked out of the closing role. Actually, he got one scoreless inning, but then came out for the next one and things did not go so well. Hunter issued a walk to Anthony Gose, who ended up on third after Hunter could not field a grounder by Jose Reyes. The error on the play actually was charged to Schoop, who couldn't field Hunter's half-hearted deflection, but whatever.
Gose scored on a wild pitch, which moved Reyes up to second. Reyes moved up to third on a groundout, in position to easily score when Jose Bautista floated a single to center. That gets us to our 4-0 final score.
The best scoring chance for the Orioles came in the fourth inning. Adam Jones led off with a single and moved up a base on a groundout. Unfortunately, Jones then delivered a TOOTBLAN (thrown out on the basepath like a nincompoop), taking off for third on a grounder to shortstop. Reyes threw to third, where Jones was tagged out. Maybe if he was on third, then Hardy would have still singled and scored him. Instead, the Orioles got nothing.
Four Orioles batters had multi-hit games, including a three-hit effort by Machado, and two-hit games by Hardy, Jones, and Steve Pearce. Every time Pearce plays, you wonder why he doesn't play more. The problem for the Orioles was that every other Oriole had a no-hit game. That's a good recipe for getting shut out.
The series is even up at one game apiece. They continue Saturday afternoon at 4:05, with Bud Norris starting for the Orioles against R.A. Dickey of the Jays. A plague fell upon the Orioles knuckleballers on Friday, with minor leaguer Eddie Gamboa being suspended 50 games for a positive PED test, and UMBC product Zach Clark being released. Maybe some of that bad knuckleballer juju will mean a poor performance for Dickey.
Please exit through the gift shop. A portion of the proceeds from every sale will go towards the preservation of good starting pitchers in their natural habitat.