On a night when the Orioles desperately needed a win, they turned to the new hero of Birdland. Once the most maligned member of the team, Ubaldo Jimenez has looked like a different player since he rejoined the rotation for good on August 25th. Tonight he was just what his team needed as they shut out the Blue Jays to win two out of three in this crucial series.
What has fueled Jimenez’s turnaround? Was it the birth of his first child? His newly obtained American citizenship? More likely it is that in that long stretch of time that he barely appeared out of the bullpen, he was working his butt off to identify and fix the issues that had plagued him. Whatever the reason, it seems safe to say that everything is coming up Ubaldo.
With two runners on and no outs in the bottom of the first inning, Jimenez retired three of the Jays best hitters in a row to keep any runs from scoring. From then until the rest of the game the Blue Jays didn’t have a chance to score a run, that’s how good he was.
Ubaldo was so good that after he gave up a leadoff single to Ezequiel Carrera in the first inning, he didn’t allow another hit. After the walk he gave to Josh Donaldson just after the single to Carrera, he retired 20 of his final 22 batters.
He did struggle with putting batters away at times, going to a 3-2 count on nine different hitters. And he walked three total in the game, which isn’t good but which you can generally get away with when you only allow one hit. That did drive his pitch count up, but he got through 6 2⁄3 shutout innings on a season high 116 pitches.
The Blue Jays’ offense looked a lot like we’ve seen the O’s offense look of late. Just unable to do anything. By the end they had that same familiar beaten down look. It was glorious.
Speaking of the Orioles’ offense, they scored four runs tonight without a home run. I know! Runs scored on singles and and a sac fly and a ground out. Who is this team? I don’t know what to say either!
Jays starter Marcus Stroman was more efficient with his pitches, needing 99 to pitch seven innings. But he was decidedly less efficient when it came to, you know, hits and runs.
Hot hitting J.J. Hardy doubled to start the third inning and eventually scored on a sacrifice fly from Manny Machado. We’ve seen Machado look anxious at the plate in clutch situations lately, so it was great to see him just put the ball in the air and get the run in.
In the fourth inning Chris Davis singled back up the middle, the first of his two hits in the game. A single by Schoop moved Davis to third where he was able to score on a ground out. Productive outs for Orioles! POFOs!
Speaking of producing runs, Michael Bourn walked in the seventh and then immediately stole second base. I’m normally not a fan of the Orioles running, but that’s because they usually are not successful. That set the stage for Hyun Soo Kim, who singled to right field for the RBI.
And that wasn’t it for the POFOs, either. Mark Trumbo started the eighth inning with what looked like a single to left field. Seeing that the left fielder was in no hurry, Trumbo turned on the jets and got to second base. He and the rest of the Orioles were rewarded for his hustle as the very next batter, Matt Wieters, singled him in for the fourth and final run of the night.
Again I ask, who is this team?
Once Jimenez departed the game, Donnie Hart and Brad Brach combined for the final 2 1⁄3 innings without allowing a run. That gave the Orioles the chance to cruise to the victory. Baseball is fun!
This win did the following for the wild card race: it tied the Orioles with the Blue Jays for the first WC spot, however the Orioles actually need to pull ahead by at least one game if they want to play at home. The Blue Jays hold tiebreaker with a 10-9 season record.
Also, the win eliminated both the Yankees and the Astros from playoff contention, so now the Orioles only have the Tigers and Mariners chasing them. They are currently 1.5 games ahead of the Tigers and 2.5 games ahead of the Mariners. Will the elimination cause the Yankees to stop trying for the last series? Probably not, but we can hope.
As the Orioles travel to New York to finish the season, the Blue Jays head to Boston. The Red Sox have clinched the division but are still chasing the Rangers for the top playoff seed, so let’s root for them to destroy the Jays.