Ubaldo Jimenez entered today's game with a stellar record so far in May: 20 strikeouts, 5 walks, .224 wOBA against, and just one earned run in 19.2 innings. Great numbers, but looking deeper you see that he’d stranded nearly 95% of runners. So perhaps it wasn’t that surprising when Jimenez failed to strand his first baserunner of the game. Naturally the runner was Norichika Aoki and naturally he reached first on a bunt single. He moved to second on a fielder’s choice by Alcides Escobar, advanced to third on a groundout by Eric Hosmer, and scored on a single by Billy Butler. Alex Gordon also singled to put Butler in scoring position, but Jimenez struck out Salvador Perez to limit the damage.
The Orioles went quietly in their first two innings against James Shields but notched three in the third. J.J. Hardy and David Lough singled and Jonathan Schoop reached on a bunt when Mike Moustakas’s throw was offline. Nick Markakis singled to drive in two and Manny Machado hit a sac fly to bring in Schoop. 3-1 Orioles. Adam Jones singled and Chris Davis advanced the runners with a groundout, but Nelson Cruz flew out to end the threat.
The Royals bit back in the bottom of the fourth with the help of instant replay. With one out and Alex Gordon on first, Salvador Perez hit a ground ball behind second base. Schoop had to dive for it but seemingly made a stellar flip to Hardy to force Gordon at second. Ned Yost challenged the play and was rewarded when the call was overturned. Lorenzo Cain then singled to bring in Gordon, cutting the Orioles’ lead to one.
The small lead evaporated entirely in the fifth. Jimenez walked Aoki to lead off the inning but rebounded to strike out Escobar and Hosmer. He allowed a single to Butler while Aoki moved up to third. Alex Gordon, who had only one home run to that point in the season, then sent one deep over the right field wall to make it 5-3 Royals. The replay showed that Clevenger wanted the ball on the outer part of the plate but Jimenez missed inside. Salvador Perez lined out to end the inning, but at 98 pitches and five earned runs, Jimenez was out of the game.
The Orioles continued to nickel-and-dime Shields around but couldn’t get a key hit. Hardy singled in the 6th, and in the 7th Markakis walked and Machado singled, but the Orioles couldn’t bring any of those runners home. Meanwhile Buck’s attempt to play handedness matchups backfired in a big way when he brought in Troy Patton to face Hosmer, Butler, and Gordon in the 7th. The lefty Hosmer walked, Butler doubled him to third, and the lefty Gordon blasted another three-run dinger. That shot made it 8-3 Royals, and the game looked about over.
However, the Orioles made things interesting again. With the score still 8-3 in the top of the 9th, Yost brought in Aaron Crow to mop up. Schoop walked and, after Markakis flew out, Machado singled. Adam Jones worked the count to an uncharacteristic 3-1 before blasting a pitch over the fence to cut the Royals’ lead to 8-6. The suddenly slimmer two-run lead forced Yost to bring in closer Greg Holland, who retired Davis and Cruz to end the game.
Despite giving up five runs in five innings, I thought Ubaldo pitched okay. He struck out seven, walked just one, and got a lot of ground balls. That’s what you want to see from him (well, any pitcher really). Unfortunately, the walk and one of the ground ball singles came right before the mistake pitch to Gordon. It wasn’t a stellar start or even a good one, but at least it wasn’t messy like his April starts. Let other teams beat you with hits, not by putting them on base.
You could quibble with Buck’s reliever usage in the game. Two of the most untested relievers on the staff, Brad Brach and Patton, pitched when the Orioles were behind by just two runs (on the road, no less) while Zach Britton sat on the bench. Patton has been good in the past but missed a lot of time this year while suspended, so it’s still early for him. Similarly, Brach has only been with the team for a little while. Lest you think this is all pitching's fault, the offense is also to blame: Chris Davis grounded out in every plate appearance except one and Nelson Cruz didn’t do much either. Both came up short in the seventh when a hit would've scored at least one run.
Here's how the game went:
With the loss, the Orioles split the four-game set. They’re off tomorrow before beginning a two-game miniseries at Pittsburgh on Tuesday. Miguel Gonzalez is scheduled to face Francisco Liriano.