There's good news and bad news about the Orioles' game against the Twins on Wednesday afternoon. The good news is that they finally managed to score more than two runs in a game. More good news is that their starting pitcher, Ubaldo Jimenez, did not give up any runs. The bad news is that the Orioles only scored three runs, the bullpen gave up five runs, and they still lost. The 5-3 defeat closes out a sweep at the hands of the Twins.
When this series began, the O's and Twins had identical 43-39 records. The O's leave Minnesota heading in a very different direction, and I'm not talking about geographically, either. There was nothing pretty about this series. It was bad enough to make you wonder if there will be nothing pretty about the Orioles for the rest of the year.
As an alternative to lighting ourselves on fire and running around the bases - which, by the way, a man will be doing after the Norfolk Tides play on Saturday, so if you're in the neighborhood, check that out - one thing to keep in mind is that all the way back in 2012 the Orioles had a pretty bad couple of games against Minnesota; they lost one game 19-7 and the next day lost, 6-4, to fall to only two games above .500. That was mid-July. It looked like everything would fall apart. Instead, August and September were awesome.
But at the same time, it's hard to look at this team and imagine the kind of meteoric second half rise that the O's carried out in their two recent playoff seasons. Where is the sudden improvement going to come from? There are four All-Stars on this team, which is cool, but not many other players who are pulling their own weight.
Five and Dive with Ubaldo Jimenez
The game actually looked like it would end up being a whole lot worse than it ended up being. Ubaldo Jimenez, starting for the O's, didn't have all that great of a day despite the fact that he kept the Twins off the board. Brian Dozier, who probably deserves to be an All-Star but won't be because he's up against the Royals vote-stuffing machine, led off the game with a single, stole second base, and then, after a groundout, stole third base. Ubaldo does not excel at holding runners.
Jimenez then proceeded to walk the bases loaded before getting the next two batters to strike out and preserve an early scoreless tie. No damage was done, but this cost him a lot of pitches and had him ticketed for an early exit from the get-go.
The Twins threatened in every one of Ubaldo's five innings of work, with Jimenez facing multiple at-bats with runners in scoring position in four of his five innings. It was definitely a "five and dive" kind of game. He definitely dove, giving up seven hits and three walks while throwing 110 pitches but skating his way out of allowing any runs at all. Some days, that has to be good enough.
Jimenez actually left with a lead. The Orioles managed to turn a Steve Pearce leadoff triple in the fourth inning into one measly run. How do you do that? Very carefully. After the Pearce triple, newly-called up (and already-demoted) Oriole Christian Walker lived up to his name by working a walk after a tough battle with Twins starter Tommy Milone, who is one of that dread species, the soft-tossing lefty.
Hey, first and third with nobody out! That almost sounds like a rally. And indeed a rally it was, at least until J.J. Hardy grounded into a double play, scoring the run with no RBI and clearing the bases in the process.
Bud, like Tommy, went boom
The meager 1-0 lead did not long survive Jimenez's exit from the game. Freshly-minted long reliever Bud Norris got the ball in the sixth inning. Norris issued a one-out walk to Twins catcher and #8 hitter Eric Fryer. Then, once he'd gotten the second out, Bud went boom. First Dozier ripped a home run into the left field seats, his 18th of the season, putting the Twins up 2-1. Joe Mauer made it back-to-back with an opposite field line drive that landed in the flower pots or whatever weird stuff they have out there above the fence in left.
One inning later, the recently-pumpkinized Chaz Roe coughed up another couple of runs. Roe didn't give up any homers, but he did walk two guys and proceed to give up two runs on a Fryer double.
Safely in a 5-1 hole, the O's offense then proceeded to hit nice but relatively meaningless home runs. Manny Machado led off the top of the eighth with a solo home run, his 19th home run of the year, which gave him sole possession of the team lead in home runs. Next up was Chris Davis, who immediately grabbed a share of the home run lead with a solo shot of his own, his 19th of the season. Davis actually had three of the O's seven hits today, two of which went for extra bases.
After the back-to-back homers, no other Orioles reached base in the game. They once again went hitless in their chances with runners in scoring position, today turning in an 0-4. The Twins weren't much better, going 1-12. It was enough for them to beat the O's, who are officially pretty bad on the road with a 17-26 record away from Camden Yards.
The Orioles have a much-needed off day waiting tomorrow. They're heading back to Baltimore where they will next face the sales associates from Walgreens Store #4638 on Friday night. Go and get yourself a floppy hat, and then cross your fingers, because Chris Tillman is the starting pitcher. Store manager Matt Williams has yet to emerge from the break room to name his starter.