There's bad pitching and then there's whatever Ubaldo Jimenez was doing for the Orioles on Sunday afternoon. Jimenez was unable to complete the first inning, which did not stop him from still managing to give up five runs.
Despite that large early deficit, the Orioles went on to rally to come most of the way back only to see their bullpen dig the hole even deeper. A second rally came up just short, with the tying run on third base as the game ended, with the Orioles, after all that, falling to the Blue Jays, 10-9.
If this story sounds familiar after Saturday’s game, well, you’re not wrong about that. Jimenez was even worse than Mike Wright was on Saturday. Throwing strikes wasn't as much of a problem for Jimenez, rather that every strike he threw was completely and totally hittable.
Words that are usually used to describe poor pitching performances such as “bad” and “terrible” are insufficient to the task of describing an outing where the starting pitcher gives up five runs on six hits in only a third of an inning pitched.
You have to be on another level to be bad enough to make manager Buck Showalter come out for the pitching change in the first inning. Ubaldo was on that level and beyond.
It's tempting to say that a pitcher like Jimenez should just be left out to dry in a game like that. For a team that has a pedestrian offense a five run deficit in the first inning might inspire a feeling of, “Well, this is over, might as well save the bullpen.” The Orioles are not such a team. Jimenez had to be pulled to give them a chance - and they took the chance.
Trying, again, to overcome poor starting pitching
The Orioles offense is never out of a game. That’s all there is to it. Put them in any deficit early in a game and it doesn’t matter. They will start scoring eventually and maybe they will even be able to score enough, even against a pitcher who has done well, like Toronto’s Aaron Sanchez this year.
They started off by clawing back a run in the very next inning as Pedro Alvarez, Jonathan Schoop, and Ryan Flaherty strung together consecutive singles to get the O’s on the board. The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step and all that.
If the target had remained at a five run deficit to pull back, the Orioles might have gotten somewhere. Of course, it did not. The Jays added to their lead in subsequent innings against Vance Worley. You can't even get mad at Worley, really.
Well, you can, but you shouldn't, although the part where he gave up a third-deck home run to Kevin Pillar was frustrating. Still, Worley’s not why they lost the game. He did his best and he stabilized the situation, pitching 4.1 innings and giving up just two runs. At this point he’s more deserving of Jimenez’s rotation spot than Jimenez is.
So it was 7-1 and that too may seem insurmountable to a team that’s not the Orioles, but these are the Orioles we’re talking about and there will be dongs. There were many today.
Pedro Alvarez got the party started in the fourth inning with a solo shot crushed to deep center, his seventh homer of the year. That was merely a prelude for the fifth inning, when the Orioles punished a tiring Sanchez by launching dingers in as many directions as possible.
Adam Jones led off the inning with a home run, making it 7-3. That was #10 of the year for him. Later, Manny Machado added a double, meaning he was on base when Chris Davis launched his fifth home run in as many games.
Suddenly it was a lot more interesting, the score pulled back to 7-5. It became more interesting still when Matt Wieters joined the party with his sixth homer of the year. Abruptly a once out-of-control game was just a one-run game.
Before the inning was over, Alvarez and Schoop both singled again as well, putting the tying run in scoring position, but Flaherty struck out this time.
That closed the book on Sanchez, who came out after five innings having allowed six runs on ten hits and three walks - including four home runs. Sanchez had only allowed four home runs in 80.1 innings before today. Regression comes at you fast.
The bullpen makes it worse, again
The culprit on Saturday was T.J. McFarland, which you kind of expect. The culprit on Sunday was Mychal Givens, which you do not expect. The Jones Theory of Everything, which states, "Sometimes you suck,” applied in force to Givens.
Givens came in for the sixth inning. The game had become close enough to start using good relievers. Unfortunately, Givens was not good today. He walked Josh Donaldson, then after a fielder’s choice, walked Michael Saunders as well, bringing up Russell Martin, who has been terrible this year but not this series.
This series the Orioles keep walking Martin and today when they finally didn't walk him, despite his batting .208, Givens allowed Martin to hit a three-run home run. Sure seemed like a dagger, putting the Orioles down 10-6, but even then, it’s never truly over.
The second Orioles comeback began in the eighth inning when switch pitcher Pat Venditte left an 0-2 breaking ball hanging out over the plate for Jones. That's a bad idea, and with Flaherty having reached on an infield single right before that, it meant Jones’ second homer of the day - and 11th of the year - was good for two runs to make it 10-8.
Which brings us to the ninth inning. The Jays did not use closer Roberto Osuna, choosing instead to have Jason Grilli try to get the save. Grilli began the year being terrible for the Braves and he began his outing today with problems.
Machado led off with a single. Grilli then walked Davis, putting the tying run on base with nobody out, before recording a strikeout of Mark Trumbo. Not the best day of Trumbo’s career: 0-5. He was the only Orioles starter not to reach base.
Next in line was Wieters, whom Grilli walked on four straight pitches, putting the go-ahead run on base with just one out. It was Alvarez’s turn to try to make something happen.
If you were watching, you were probably excited when Alvarez worked the count in his favor and took a big cut and made contact with a 2-0 pitch from Grilli - but as the ball flew towards right, Jays right fielder Saunders timed his leap just right and caught the line drive against the fence.
This was easily deep enough to score Machado from third base and went down as a sacrifice fly, with the tying run moving up to third base on the play.
Next came Schoop, who had three hits on the day, and not to harp on him too much when the big story of the day is complete Orioles pitching failure, but this moment was too big for Schoop and he struck out swinging on three pitches, two of which were out of the strike zone.
After all of that, it was over. Close does not count in baseball. And as long as so much of their starting rotation keeps pitching this way, the Orioles are going to be hard-pressed to keep making things close.
That is a problem for another day. After a Monday off day, the Orioles will be in Boston to begin a three-game series, the winner of which will be leading the American League East at the end. The 7:10 opener on Tuesday will see Chris Tillman take the mound for the O’s, with David Price pitching for the Red Sox.