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Ubaldo unleashes a gem in Toronto, Orioles win 2-0

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The Offense couldn’t manage much against J.A. Happ & Co., but tonight was all about Ubaldo Jimenez.  The uneven starting pitcher tossed his best game of 2017 and led the O’s to a 2-0 victory.

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at Toronto Blue Jays Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

With the win tonight, the Orioles took the series in Toronto. It was the first time they won back-to-back road series since April 13-20 in Toronto and Cincinnati. The Birds improved to 4-2 for the road trip at large, and moved yet again back to .500 for the season. It was really a one-man show in Toronto this evening, though.

Let’s take a look.

Ubaldo, Ubaldo, Ubaldo

Even factoring-in tonight’s start, Ubaldo Jimenez’s 6.48 ERA surely doesn’t belong in a Major League rotation, right? It’s about to be July. This is not an outlandishly high statistic supported by bad luck, bound to regress. This is just who he is right now, and he’s only still got a job because there are no better alternatives in the Orioles system.

Jimenez is roughly a dozen innings short of “qualifying” (one IP per team game), but if he had those extra innings at his current clip, he would in fact have the highest ERA of any starting pitcher in all of baseball by a not-insignificant margin of 0.39.

The writing was on the wall for tonight. It was time for another blow-out at the hands of a hapless Orioles starter. As they say though, baseball isn’t played on paper. It’s played on dirt, and grass, and sometimes weird fake grass.

Jokes aside, can anybody figure this guy out? Seriously, though. He’s reliably terrible over and over again, until he’s not. It has been said repeatedly on this blog that Ubaldo is probably one of the most likeable O’s on the current roster, so when he pitches like he did tonight, there’s a collective swoon. It feels right to cheer for him. He’s the good guy. He just usually sucks.

Tonight was not one of those nights. Tonight, Ubaldo surprised everybody, was absolutely amazing, and it felt so good. Ubaldo started the first by throwing only nine pitches and retiring all three batters in order. Okay. Cautious optimism. The Jays can’t exactly hit well, so maybe this was a fluke inning?

It was not. Through three, the lone mark against Ubaldo was a two-out double by Ryan Goins in the third. The further in the game Ubaldo kept-up being not only good, but efficient, the harder it was to suspend my disbelief. Through those same three innings, he had thrown only 27 pitches, and 22 of them were for strikes.

The fourth was no different, as Ubaldo continued to induce soft contact, and the Jays went down 1-2-3 for the third time in four tries. The fifth is when Ubaldo finally issued his first walk—a one out free-pass to Troy Tulowitizki (who promptly swiped second), but Ubaldo recovered by inducing another groundout, and then striking out Kevin Pillar for out number three. This was starting to feel real.

Ubaldo came out in the sixth and threw his fourth 1-2-3 inning. He had tallied only 70 pitches, and 52 of them were for strikes. I cannot stress enough how easy Ubaldo was making this look. The seventh was another quick 1-2-3 inning with a tapper and two Ks. Was the other shoe really not going to drop?

It almost did in the eighth, when Kevin Pillar hilariously hit a double off the base of the wall that he thought was a HR. He was trotting around first leisurely, and came a hair away from being thrown out at second once he realized the ball was in play. Luckily it was not a HR, and Ubaldo had already gotten an easy groundout, and a K. He finished the Jays off in the inning by inducing a Ryan Goins pop-out foul to Manny Machado.

That would do it for Jimenez on the night. Thankfully, Brad Brach didn’t screw anything up in the ninth on his way to a save.

Slow offense Happ-ens to be enough

J.A. Happ threw a good start of his own (6.1IP, 8H, 2ER, 2BB, 2SO), but the end result didn’t hold a flame to Mr. Jimenez’s (8.0IP, 2H, 0ER, 1BB, 8SO).

The Orioles managed a lone hit in each of the first two innings in the form of a Schoop 1B in the first that actually only just-missed being a laser HR, and a CaJo 2B in the second.

In the third, Ruben Tejada started things off with a 1B and was followed by Joey Rickard slashing a 2B down the left field line. Manny Machado struck out next because this is 2017, not 2016 or before. Schoop notched a sac fly and a team-leading 49th RBI with one down. 1-0, Orioles. Jones popped out to Tulowitzki for the third out, but the O’s had the early lead.

In the fourth and fifth, the Orioles sprinkled base runners here-and-there, but didn’t cross the plate again until the sixth. Jonathan Schoop led that inning off with a 1B, but got over-excited trying to stretch it to a 2B. It was not to be. One out.

Adam Jones came up, and showed Schoop how to do it properly, hitting the ball and only taking first base… that is until he advanced on a wild pitch. That didn’t ultimately matter because Trey Mancini walked after a Trumbo fly out. With two down, CaJo knocked an RBI single up the right center gap, scoring Adam. 2-0 Orioles. Craig Gentry grounded out for the third out, but at this point, 2-0 felt like it could be enough. Turns out it was.

Toronto played some flashy defense to keep the Orioles off the board in the seventh, as the Jays lifted Happ in favor of their bullpen. That same bullpen would hold down the O’s offense for the rest of the game, but the damage was already done. Orioles win, 2-0.

Next time out, Ubaldo will probably get shelled to death, and we’ll all wonder what the heck is wrong with him. We’ll ruminate over why he still has a job, because surely anybody else could do better. But for tonight, we’ll bask in all the glory that is the occasional Ubaldo beauty. Tonight, Ubaldo is Birdland.

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    Ubaldo Jimenez - Win, 8.0IP, 2H, 0ER, 1BB, 8SO!!!
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