Are you sitting down? No, sit down. Okay, here goes: Ubaldo Jimenez pitched five innings for the Orioles today and didn't allow any walks. This is not a drill. Sure, it's only one spring training game, but where will this team be if Jimenez isn't going to be walking half of the planet every time he takes the mound? On this day at least, it helped to bring the Orioles to a 9-2 victory over the Pirates in Bradenton.
As much of a big deal as Jimenez without control issues was Chris Davis leading off the second inning with a casual bunt against the shift for a base hit. If these two things happen in the regular season, the sky is the limit for this team, surely. The Davis bunt didn't matter in the game's outcome since Ryan Lavarnway grounded into a double play right behind him - one of three in the game's first three innings against former Oriole Radhames Liz - but still, it's an encouraging sign.
The Orioles got four hits but no runs against Liz. They did much of their damage against Pittsburgh's Jared Hughes, who came on to pitch the fourth inning for the Pirates. Hughes faced seven batters and only retired one of them. If you had told me that a pitcher in the game would accomplish this feat today I would have probably guessed it would be Jimenez.
That fourth inning opened with a solo home run off the bat of Steve Pearce, who is the leader for spring training home runs in the non-Kris Bryant category. Pearce has five home runs. Hughes next gave up a double to Jimmy Paredes, the man without a position. After that, his defense abandoned him. Delmon Young reached on a blooper that didn't leave the infield, and runners all took an extra base after a single from Davis when second baseman Jung Ho Kang did not catch the cutoff throw.
Before the inning was out, the Orioles had scored five runs on six hits, more than enough of a cushion than they'd need to win the game.
In the sixth, the O's tacked on two more runs. A successful couple of plate appearances by the Ryans Lavarnway and Flaherty set the O's up with two men in scoring position. Paul Janish obliged by driving in both runners to give the O's a 7-0 lead.
The bottom of the sixth was less kind to Janish. Orioles closer Zach Britton, whom you may have heard gets a lot of ground balls, came on to pitch. BABIP was not Britton's friend today. He gave up five hits, four of which were balls on the ground. There were three plays in Janish's direction that the Pirates radio broadcasters thought he should have made, and another somewhat boneheaded play where Davis tried to get a forceout at second base and managed to throw the ball into the runner's back instead.
After all of those shenanigans were over, two runs had scored, though the Davis throwing error ensured that neither of the two runs was earned. Pittsburgh did not score for the remainder of the game. Brad Brach struck out the side in the seventh and Logan Verrett had a three-up, three-down ninth to end the contest. Wesley Wright kept the Pirates off the board in the eighth despite allowing two hits.
For Verrett, that now makes 11 spring innings in which he's allowed only two runs and has struck out nine batters. Is that going to be enough to get the Rule 5 pick onto the roster?
Two more Orioles runs scored in the seventh in a very un-Oriole fashion. They had three walks in the inning, including one with the bases loaded to bring home a run. Being as it was the seventh inning of a spring road game, none of these players were projected Orioles starters. That could be why it was un-Oriole-like.
Anyway, runs are runs, and the players who are more likely to impact the regular season did their part to help the team rack up a total of 16 hits in the game. Four Orioles starters had multi-hit games, including Pearce, Young, Davis, and Ryan Flaherty. Young and Flaherty each had three hits.
The Grapefruit League schedule was rough at the beginning for the Orioles. They've now pulled their way up to a 9-13 record, which is also rough but is getting better as the players who are more likely to matter are getting a greater share of the playing time. They have won five of their last six games and six of their last eight.
None of it counts, but what the heck, Ubaldo didn't walk anybody in five innings. World Series, here we come!