The Orioles were supposed to face David Price today, but instead they faced the guy whom the Tigers most wanted in the trade for Price: Daniel Norris. Norris is well-regarded, having been ranked #1 in the Blue Jays system and #18 overall by Baseball America his past offseason. He showed everyone why today, pitching 7.2 strong innings while limiting the Orioles to four hits, one walk, and one run.
I wrote last week that Good Ubaldo shut down the Braves on Tuesday. Today, Not-So-Good Ubaldo showed up. He had a difficult first inning, leaving a few pitches in the middle of the plate, one of which resulted in a three-run homer by power threat J.D. Martinez. That shot put the Tigers up 3-0. But he cruised through the second, third, and fourth innings without allowing a baserunner and while getting a lot of ground balls.
Meanwhile, the Orioles wasted their first good scoring opportunity against Norris. In the bottom of the second, Chris Davis walked and Matt Wieters singled to put runners on first and second with no one out. J.J. Hardy was up next and decided to bunt. At least, that's what Gary Thorne and Jim Palmer said, meaning it wasn't a sign from Buck. Hardy executed poorly though and popped the ball in the air, whereupon it was caught on a dive by Norris. Jimmy Paredes, who is just awful against left-handers in general, then hit into a double play to end the modest threat. It would take until the fourth inning for the Orioles to score, and they did so when Chris Davis blasted his 26th home run of the season into the seats in right-center.
If anything, the fact that Jimenez wasn't racking up strikeouts should've indicated that the Tigers were seeing his pitches pretty well and would soon start hitting them past defenders. And that's exactly what happened. After Nick Castellanos grounded out and Alex Avila struck out to start the fifth inning, Rajai Davis blooped a single over Chris Davis' head. Nolan Reimold had to run hard to get it, but when he did he fired the ball hard ... right into the leg of Jonathan Schoop, who had dropped to a knee in order to give Reimold clearance. Schoop wasn't even looking at Reimold, so the ball bounced off him and trickled towards center field. Davis, meanwhile, has a bit of speed. He had come out of the box thinking two, which is why Reimold rushed the throw in the first place, and so easily made it to third base. In fact he probably could have scored. It was a bizarre play, ultimately scored a double for Davis and a throwing error on Reimold.
The extra base proved costly. The next batter, Anthony Gose, also is a speedy runner, so Schoop was playing in a little bit. He had to dive to his left when Schoop slapped a slider towards him but the ball snuck under his glove. Davis scored and it was 4-1 Tigers.
With Gose at first base, Jose Iglesias stepped to the plate. Jimenez threw over to first base twice, perhaps noticing that Gose was getting a pretty large lead. His first pitch to the batter was actually a pitchout, and Wieters fired the ball to second base in time to nab Gose ... or so it seemed to me watching the broadcast and the replays. Gose was actually called safe on the field. Buck challenged it but was denied.
Perhaps emboldened by the thievery, Gose stole third base two pitches later. Iglesias then slammed a pitch to deep center field right at Adam Jones. Jones, who'd been playing a bit shallow since Iglesias is not a power threat, broke towards home plate before realizing his mistake. He had no chance and Iglesias ended up third with a run-scoring triple. 5-1 Tigers. Ian Kinsler then singled him home to make it 6-1, and Buck took Jimenez out to bring in new callup Jorge Rondon.
I don't fault Jimenez for all the runs here. The Orioles had two good chances to get out of the inning. First, had Schoop been just a few steps to his left or a few steps back, he would've thrown out Gose. Second, I think Gose was out stealing second base. Either of these two plays easily could've gone the other way, and then the Orioles would've been out of the inning with the score still 3-1.
But it is what it is. Jorge Rondon, although not particularly dominant, kept runs off the board for the next 3.1 innings. He came into the game with an ERA of 90.00, having pitched all of two major-league innings in his career -- one in 2013 for St. Louis and another in 2014 for Colorado. It was the latter stint in which he gave up 10 runs, leading to the astronomical ERA. He throws 95+ MPH and his performance today lowered his ERA all the way down to 20.77. Brian Matusz replaced him in the 8th inning and struck out two batters.
The Orioles offense was quiet. After the Davis home run, they had just one more hit, a Schoop single in the 8th that "chased" Norris from the game. (I put that in scare quotes because I don't think Brad Ausmus was very afraid of anything bad happening today.) Jimmy Paredes even tried batting same-handed against Norris, but to no avail.
The loss drops the Orioles to 53-51 on the year. Their next game begins a West Coast road trip against the Oakland Athletics.