Let’s be honest. Regardless of what happened in tonight’s game, the biggest story of the day was going to be the Orioles’ decision not to sell Zach Britton (or anybody else), and their acquisition of Tim Beckham.
Still, there was baseball to be played, and tonight was a fun one. Two great pitching performances, a walk-off win, and everyone who works tomorrow got to hit the road by 9:45. Oh, and Buck Showalter tied Earl Weaver for 24th all-time with his 1480th win as a manager. Doesn’t get much better than that.
A great outing for Ubaldo
With the recent acquisition of Jeremy Hellickson, many have speculated whether Ubaldo Jimenez would be the odd man out in the Orioles’ rotation. He did his best to try and convince Buck Showalter to pick someone else, tossing seven one-run innings in one of his best outings of the year.
The first inning didn’t exactly go as planned for Jimenez. After allowing a double to Lorenzo Cain, Eric Hosmer hit a two-out double of his own to give the Royals a 1-0 lead. It actually wasn’t a terrible pitch; Hosmer did a great job of taking a high and outside fastball the other way into the left field corner.
After that, Ubaldo settled down nicely. He scattered just three more hits and two walks the rest of the way while striking out six, highlighted by a dominant fifth inning where he struck out the side in order.
Jimenez was sitting at an even 100 pitches through seven and probably could’ve gone deeper if he needed to. Considering it was a tie game, Buck opted to go with a well-rested Mychal Givens. That decision was the correct one, as Givens tossed a nine-pitch eighth inning.
This is the second straight good outing for Ubaldo, and if it were up to me, I’d look elsewhere for a starter to give up his spot to Hellickson. Don’t forget about how Jimenez turned it around for the second half of last season after a horrific start to the year.
Missed opportunities against Duffy
Despite his excellent start, Jimenez left the game looking at a no-decision thanks to an equally good outing by Danny Duffy. The Orioles threatened him a few times early in the game, but couldn’t cash in.
Manny Machado doubled with one out in the bottom of the first, but was thrown out stealing to end the inning two batters later. I say “thrown out,” but it looked like Mike Moustakas clearly missed the tag.
Despite Machado’s insistence that he was safe, Buck Showalter decided not to challenge. Maybe the Orioles traded the guy who’s supposed to watch the replays at today’s deadline. However the miscommunication happened, the end result was that the original call stuck.
An inning later, Chris Davis had a two-run homer taken away by Lorenzo Cain, who went up over the centerfield fence to pull a ball back that would’ve ended up in the Orioles’ bullpen. Later in the inning, the O’s had the bases loaded but a Craig Gentry groundout ended the threat.
The O’s finally broke through in the bottom of the fifth on an RBI single from the bat of Jonathan Schoop. That base hit drove in Manny Machado, who was on second following his second double of the game.
Battle of the bullpens
After the aforementioned quick inning from Mychal Givens, the Royals’ Peter Moylan came in and tossed a one-two-three inning of his own. That brought out Zach Britton, who is still an Oriole, for the ninth.
Britton looked like vintage Britton on this night, sitting at 96-97 with his fastball and inducing two ground balls. After Melky Cabrera reached on a fluky play where the throw from Manny Machado broke through the webbing of Chris Davis’ glove, Eric Hosmer grounded into a double play a few pitches later. Britton struck out Salvador Perez swinging to end the frame.
It’s easier to wonder what might have been different if Britton had pitched another inning like this over the weekend instead of today, but that doesn’t matter now. He’s still an Oriole. Whether it helps to propel an improbable playoff run this year or just improves his stock for a future trade, either way Britton returning to his old form is a good thing.
Kansas City brought in Joakim Soria for the bottom of the ninth, a pitcher who should hold a special spot in the hearts of O’s fans everywhere by virtue of being the guy who allowed the famous bases-loaded double to Delmon Young in the 2014 ALDS.
After a groundout from Chris Davis, Caleb Joseph looped a soft line drive in front of the Kansas City outfield’s “no doubles” defense for a base hit. Joey Rickard flied out to the right field corner, and Ruben Tejada ripped a grounder through the left side to move Joseph into scoring position with two outs.
That brought up Gentry, who had yet another chance to cash in a runner in scoring position with two outs. This time, he delivered. Gentry singled on a grounder up the middle that wasn’t hit hard enough for Lorenzo Cain to have any chance of throwing out Joseph at the plate. Ballgame.
Whatever your opinion of the Orioles’ decision not to sell at today’s deadline, what’s done is done. There’s nothing left to do now except go out and win baseball games. Against a good pitcher and a team that had won ten of their last eleven games, this was a nice start.
Who was the Most Birdland Player on July 31st, 2017?
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Ubaldo Jimenez (7 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 6 K, 2 BB)
Craig Gentry (walk-off single)
Manny Machado (2-4, two doubles, stolen base that didn’t count)
Jonathan Schoop (2-4, RBI single in the 5th)