Ubaldo Jimenez, looking to build on a strong 2015 season that admittedly saw him falter in the second half, wasn’t great out of the gate. He struck out the first batter he faced but allowed a solo shot to Joe Mauer to put the Orioles in a 1-0 hole. It would’ve been a two-run dinger if Danny Santana, who’d reached first base on a drag bunt, hadn’t been erased trying to steal second base. Caleb Throwseph has returned to play ball.
In the second inning, Eduardo Escobar singled into left field before John Ryan Murphy reached base on a weird play. He rocketed a ball directly at Chris Davis, who (according to the official scorer anyway) missed it. The ball skipped off the bag, bounced high into the air, and came to rest in between the rolled-up tarp and the first-base fence. Mark Trumbo did that thing where the fielder puts both hands in the air, and Escobar, who’d crossed the plate easily, was sent back to third. He scored one batter later when Byron Buxton grounded out to J.J. Hardy. 2-0 Twins.
Jimenez may have been a bit rattled, or just a bit off to start the season, because he couldn’t find the strike zone at all in the top of the 3rd. It looked like he was taking pitching tips from his 2014 self. His pitches were high in the zone and were often wide. Santana singled and stole second before moving to third base on a Mauer single. In a tight 2-0 game with no outs, it looked like a bad inning for the Orioles. But Jimenez recovered to strike out Miguel Sano and got a double-play comebacker from Trevor Plouffe.
From then on Jimenez was very difficult to hit. He struck out two batters in the 4th, one in the 5th, two in the 6th, and two in the 7th for a total of nine. Now, experienced Orioles fans are saying "yeah, but how many did he walk?" The answer is zero. ZERO.
Jimenez’s line for the night was a very good 7 IP, 7 H, 9 K, 0 BB, HR, ER. He hadn't struck out nine while walking zero since September 19, 2013. The Orioles offense needed this performance because they struggled for most of the game. They had a good chance to score in the 4th but couldn’t come through. With Nolan Reimold and Manny Machado at the corners with no one out, Chris Davis, Mark Trumbo, and J.J. Hardy couldn’t bring anyone home. It took until the 6th inning for the Orioles to score. They did it on a solo shot by Machado, on a fastball several inches inside, to make it 2-1 Twins.
The team broke through in the eighth. Again with runners on the corners thanks to back-to-back singles by Trumbo and Hardy, a brief rain delay ensued, bringing Trevor May in for starter Phil Hughes. May uncorked a wild pitch that scored Trumbo, tying the game at 2, and sending Hardy to second. One batter latter, Jonathan Schoop singled up the middle to bring home Hardy as the go-ahead run. 3-2 Orioles.
Franchise savior Dylan Bundy, pitching on 1,290 days of rest, was asked to hold the lead in the 8th, and hold it he did. He pitched around a single by Miguel Sano, and the inning ended when Sano’s pinch-runner Eduardo Nunez was nailed stealing second by an absolute laser from Joseph. Bundy pumped his fist, smiled, and gracefully shouldered the expectations of an entire city and its fanbase before walking off the mound.
But in between innings, Bundy confided to Rule 5 pick Joey Rickard that he just couldn’t handle all the pressure, and couldn’t Joey please help out? Rickard obliged with a solo homer, the first of his big-league career, to put the Orioles up 4-2. With the fans chanting "JO-EY! JO-EY! JO-EY!", Rickard shyly took a curtain call. Adorable!
Darren O’Day came in to get the save and did so by striking out the side in order. SWEEP!
The Orioles rise to 3-0 on the season while the Twins fall to the reverse. Tomorrow the Tampa Bay Rays start game four of the Orioles’ season. It’s a battle of the Chrises, as Archer opposes Tillman on the hill.