Ubaldo Jimenez was legitimately good in the first half of the season, but after the All-Star break he turned in two disaster starts against the Tigers and Yankees. I wasn't sure who would show up tonight, Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde. Although the monster debuted in the first inning, the scientist took over from there and completed seven innings of work.
What do I mean by the monster? Fans were concerned about Ubaldo getting through the first inning alive. Nick Markakis singled to lead off the game and moved to second on a Cameron Maybin groundout. Freddie Freeman then cranked a two-run home run that was at first ruled a double but elevated in stature upon official review. Game One villain Adonis Garcia then grounded out, but A.J. Pierzynski and Johnny Gomes singled, and Jimenez hit Jace Peterson to load the bases with two outs. Thankfully, he got Chris Johnson to fly out to center field for the third out.
So it was that the Orioles entered the bottom of the first already in a hole. The way the offense has been lately, and facing a good young pitcher in Julio Teheran, fans could be forgiven for thinking that the game was already over. But Manny Machado opened the game with a single into left field and Jimmy Paredes reached base via a rare walk. Adam Jones then battled Teheran, ultimately lining a hard shot down the right field that was unfortuantely snared by Freeman. Then Chris Davis made his presence known. He stepped in to bat, took ball one, then launched a fastball at the knees over the right-center wall to make it 3-2 Orioles.
Teheran's struggles continued in the inning. He hit Travis Snider with a curveball and survived another hard-hit lineout from J.J. Hardy for the second out. Chris Parmalee and Caleb Joseph then worked back-to-back walks; truthfully though, it was home plate umpire Scott Barry who walked Joseph. Teheran made some good pitches on the outside edge of the plate, but Barry refused to call them and the bases were loaded. Up next was Ryan Flaherty, and Teheran fell behind him 3-0. At this point the Braves were warming up two relievers. But Flaherty bounced into a 6-4 fielder's choice to end the inning.
Ubaldo made it through the second inning, walking number nine hitter Andrelton Simmons and striking out Markakis. In the bottom half, the Orioles continued to work against Teheran. Machado opened the inning with a long fly ball that looked good off the bat but was caught for the first out. Paredes flew out, and then Adam Jones singled. That brought up Davis again, who worked the count to 2-2 before launching another high fly ball to right field and out for a home run. It initially looked like Markakis would catch the ball, as he had a bead on it and kept inching towards the wall, but ultimately the wind picked it up and tossed it into the seats. No matter, it goes in the books as a dinger and it gave the Orioles a 5-2 lead. Snider singled, but then Hardy struck out to end it.
The middle innings were pretty uneventful, which was good when you consider the score. Jimenez had a 1-2-3 third, only walked Simmons (again) in the fourth, and had a 1-2-3 fifth. He wasn't striking out a lot of batters, but he got plenty of ground balls and the infield defense gobbled them up. In the bottom of the fifth, the Braves brought in lefty Ross Detwiler in to relieve Teheran. He got Snider to ground out, but Hardy singled on a looping 12-6 curveball. Parmalee grounded out to first base, advancing hardy, and then Caleb Joseph smacked a fastball up the middle to score him for the O's 6th run.
The team got their 7th and final run in the bottom of the sixth inning. Machado poked at another Detwiler curveball and reached base when third baseman Adonis Garcia couldn't field the ball. Paredes, batting righty, struck a hard liner off the mound that ricocheted off Detwiler's shin to where no one could get it. Adam Jones then got revenge on Freddie Freeman by blooping a double past him down the right-field line. Machado scored to make it 7-2 O's, and the Braves brought in lefty Andrew McKirahan to pitch with runners on second and third with no outs. He retired Chris Davis on a groundout, Travis Snider on a strikeout, and J.J. Hardy on a pop-out. He also retired the side in order in the bottom of the 7th.
The Braves scratched back in their half of the 8th. Buck lifted Ubaldo after seven innings and brought Brian Matusz to pitch since two lefties were due up. Freddie Freeman popped out, but the right-handed Garcia singled. A.J. Pierzynski then got a good swing around on a Matusz curveball and sent it high in the air to right field. Chris Davis had to race back and to his right, track it all the way, and leap near the wall to make the catch. It was a fine defensive play, worthy of a Web Gem for sure, and he almost doubled Garcia off first base to boot.
If only he had. With lefty-killing Johnny Gomes due up, Buck brought Chaz Roe in to pitch. Gomes looped a fly ball into left field; Snider ran and dove (okay, more like fell) but came up short. The ball's hang time allowed Garcia to race around to third, where he'd score on a Jace Peterson single to make it 7-3. Thankfully, Chris Johnson grounded out to first base to end the inning.
That was all the excitement of the game. David Aardsma set the Orioles down 1-2-3 in the 8th, although it required Freeman to leap and grab another hard-hit liner, and Roe took care of the Braves in the 9th to seal the game.
The win is the Orioles' fourth in a row and moves them to 50-49. Tomorrow they go for the series sweep when Mike Foltynewicz faces Chris Tillman.