If the Orioles offense that showed up on Saturday night against the Tigers wants to keep showing up for the rest of the season, the team will be just fine in its postseason chase. The Orioles avenged their Friday night loss by blowing out Detroit, 11-3, setting the table for a Sunday afternoon matchup with the wild card lead at stake.
The O’s offense was not the only thing going well for them in the game. For the fourth straight start since rejoining the rotation, Ubaldo Jimenez turned in a quality start. Though he didn’t duplicate his complete game against the Rays, he did end up cruising through seven innings. That really happened. Dare we even hope that he’s fixed?
Whether he’s fixed for good or for the rest of the year remains to be seen, but for Saturday night he was good when the Orioles needed him and that’s worth something too. With the win, the O’s reclaim a one game lead over the Tigers in the wild card race and maintain a game lead over the hard-charging Yankees, winners of seven in a row.
They will at least leave the weekend with a share of the second wild card spot, though it could be a three-way tie for that spot, depending on tomorrow’s results. And the Astros are only two games out, so they’re not done with either.
Strike first and strike fast
Facing the O’s offense on Saturday night was Tigers $110 million man Jordan Zimmermann, who has now started just two games since the end of June. His last start didn’t go well, either, giving up six runs in less than two innings.
Adam Jones was ready for him, ambushing the first pitch of the game for a home run, his 27th of the season. First inning home runs from the Orioles are not a guarantee of a victory, as we well know, but they sure don’t hurt.
Nor were the Orioles done knocking around Zimmermann with the Jones homer. Manny Machado reached on a walk, putting him on base when Chris Davis blasted the second Orioles homer of the inning. Davis’ 36th of the year gave the O’s a 3-1 lead.
We’ve all seen those games where they score in the first inning and never again. Saturday was not one of those games. Zimmermann came out again in the second inning and the Orioles just kept up the attack against him. Pedro Alvarez drew a walk to start the second and he scored immediately after when Matt Wieters launched a home run to right field.
After J.J. Hardy added a single and Jones drew a walk - after an 0-2 count - that was enough for Tigers manager Brad Ausmus and he yanked Zimmermann. A sixth run later scored on a wild pitch after reliever Blaine Hardy walked the bases loaded, so Zimmermann was charged with six runs, all earned, on one inning plus four batters. Too bad, so sad.
Jimenez settles after an early problem
If you remember the Jimenez complete game, he gave up three runs in the first inning of the game, looked like disaster Jimenez, then went on to complete the game. He wasn’t quite AS bad in the first in this game, and he didn’t go the distance, but the story of his outing was a similar one.
The Tigers picked up a run in the bottom of the first inning, stringing together a single, stolen base, walk, and another single to grab a run against Jimenez. He did lock things down to keep them from scoring any further in the inning. Things could have been much worse.
The O’s offense just kept pouring on the run support for Jimenez. By the middle of the fourth inning, they led the game, 8-1, so that when Jimenez ended up with bases loaded and nobody out in the fourth, it wasn’t even THAT stressful.
And Jimenez did something that Orioles starters don’t always do: He negotiated the bottom of the lineup in a tough spot to minimize the damage. A run scored on a one out groundout and that was that. The Orioles lead was plenty safe at 8-2, and still they added more.
Other than one walk in the sixth inning, Jimenez didn’t allow any more baserunners from then on. No, I’m not kidding. By the time Jimenez was through seven innings, he’d allowed just two runs on four hits and three walks. Who IS this guy? It doesn’t make his season numbers look good - 5.98 ERA to date - but if he’s clutch in the stretch when they need him most, the Orioles will surely take it.
The Orioles later added a just for funsies three run homer to open up an 11-2 margin. That homer was hit by Wieters, his second of the night and 14th of the year. Here’s another guy who you can’t help but think, "What if he’s about to have a hot September?" He did it last year, and needs one if he might entice the Orioles to make him a qualifying offer again.
In all, the Orioles picked up twelve hits and an almost as impressive seven walks to get their offense. Jones, Wieters, and Hardy all had multi-hit games for the team. They were only just barely not the better team on Friday night. There was no doubt who was the better team on Saturday.
If 88 wins remains the magic number for the second wild card race, the Orioles now just need to go 11-10 to get there. Is it the magic number? That’s the mystery. The Yankees are breathing down their necks. But it’s better to be up by a game than down by one. Now all the Orioles must do is keep winning.
They’ll have their next crack at a win on Sunday afternoon against the resurgent Justin Verlander. Chris Tillman returns from the disabled list to duel against Verlander in the 1:10 contest. There are 21 games left. The Orioles are in a playoff spot over two teams by one game. Hold on to your butts.