The Orioles dropped their first game of the season this year as new pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez couldn't keep the ball in the park as he gave up two two-run home runs. On the other side of the ball, Red Sox starter John Lackey completely shut down the impatient Orioles offense, limiting the damage to one two-run homer.
One thing I was looking forward to with Ubaldo Jimenez is finally having a pitcher on the team who induces more ground balls than fly balls. In his career Jimenez hasn't been an extreme ground ball pitcher by any means, but compared to the other four pitchers in the O's rotation his career ground ball rate of 47% makes him a ground ball king.
Yeah, that didn't happen tonight. Though at times Jimenez looked impressive, he was pitching with the ball up all night. He had good movement on his pitches resulting in six strike outs, but also had trouble staying in the zone. He walked three on the night, and in his six innings pitched he didn't have one perfect inning.
In the top of the first inning, Dustin Pedroia (who is killing it these first two games) singled with one out, and Jimenez followed that with a four-pitch walk to David Ortiz that almost made it look like he was pitching around him. But in the first inning? Could that have really been the case? Well...perhaps. Because two innings later, Pedroia again singled with one out, but this time Ortiz didn't take a walk. On a 1-1 count, Ubaldo put a fastball on the inner portion of the plate (up in the zone of course) and Ortiz crushed it. It didn't make it all the way to Eutaw Street, but it was close. That gave the Red Sox a two-run lead that held until the next inning.
John Lackey had the Orioles hacking all night. After a bloop single by Nick Markakis to start the bottom of the first inning, Lackey retired the next 11 batters. The Orioles couldn't work a count to save their lives and Lackey was cruising with a low pitch count. Finally, things started to go the Orioles' way in the bottom of the fourth. With two outs, Chris Davis walked ahead of Nelson Cruz. Cruz continued to endear himself to his new fan base, this time with an opposite field home run that just got over the low fence on the flagcourt. That tied the game 2-2, and Matt Wieters followed with a single on a 10-pitch at bat. Unfortunately J.J. Hardy couldn't extend the rally and two runs was all they got. But they forced Lackey to throw 35 pitches in the innings and it looked like maybe they had broken through.
It was a false alarm. Lackey pitched two more innings after that without allowing another baserunner.
Jimenez started the fifth inning by hitting Daniel Nava, but he managed to retire Pedroia and Ortiz for the first time of the night, so it looked like he might get out of it. At least, it looked like that until Mike Napoli hit a bomb to center field off of a fastball over the middle of the plate. That gave the Red Sox a 4-2 lead and it was all that they needed.
So Jimenez didn't exactly get off on the best foot in his Orioles career. He induced just one ground ball the entire night and finished with a line of 6 IP, 5 H, 4 ER, 3 BB, 6 K, 2 HR. He threw 96 pitches, 63 of which were for strikes.
When Jimenez came out of the game, another player made his Oriole debut, and again it didn't go well. Ryan Webb started the seventh inning with some bad luck, and he then fell apart. After he struck out Will Middlebrooks looking, Nava singled to center field on a soft line drive. In the first "I miss Manny" moment of the season, Pedroia hit a slow grounder down the third base line. Ryan Flaherty charged the ball but couldn't get a good handle on it and threw it past Davis at first base. That resulted in runners on second and third with just one out, and Ortiz coming to the plate.
In a non-surprising move, the O's elected to walk Ortiz. But all that did was set the table for Napoli, who hit a line drive to left field that dropped in for a single and scored two runs. Webb then got Gomes on a ground out that he almost botched himself. Then Brian Matusz came in to get Grady Sizemore and end the inning.
The Orioles went into the bottom of the ninth inning need to score just four runs to tie the game. Unfortunately, Koji Uehara was the pitcher. They made a little bit of noise against him as Davis reached on an error and and Hardy hit an infield single to shortstop, but when it all came down to Ryan Flaherty, he couldn't keep it going. He grounded out to first to end the game and tie the series 1-1.
These two teams will meet again tomorrow for the rubber match as Wei-Yin Chen faces of against Felix Doubront.