Despite the ups and downs of a long season, with 37 games to go on the schedule, Baltimore (61-64) entered Tuesday 3.5 games behind the second Wild Card leading Minnesota Twins. Channeling Jim Carrey in Dumb and Dumber – “So you’re telling me there’s a chance? Yeeeaaaa!”
Eleven days ago in Oakland, the A’s Paul Blackburn (3-1, 3.46) took the bump against Baltimore and gave up 10 hits and four runs. The O’s ended up losing the game 5-4 and tonight, Blackburn tried again. He was opposed by the always inconsistent – occasionally brilliant, mostly not, whose last start in Seattle did not go well – Ubaldo Jimenez at Camden Yards.
Good or bad Ubaldo? Or somewhere in between?
The game did not start well for the O’s.
Boog Bowell singled, followed by Jed Lowrie going deep to right center and a 2-0 Oakland lead before anyone had a chance to sit down. Jimenez’s pitches to the first two hitters were either wild or up, and Powell on first base seemed to distract him. He continued to look unsettled, but retired the next two batters on a strikeout and groundball into the shift. And just when the inning was almost over, Ryan Healy homered to center, making it 3-0.
Matt Olsen singled keeping things going for Oakland and Roger McDowell paid a visit to the mound. Ubaldo must have listened because Chad Pinder grounded out 1-3 to end the frame. Too bad McDowell can’t visit before every hitter. 28 pitches, two homeruns and three runs scored. Bad Ubaldo appeared to be at Camden Yards, for the first inning at least.
In the second, Jimenez’s right arm was hit by a Bruce Maxwell line drive that resulted in a single, but he was fine and stayed in to pitch. Boog Powell stroked his second hit of the game and two were on with only one out. Fortunately, Ubaldo escaped through the rest of the inning unscathed. However, through two he’d yielded six hits, three runs, thrown 43 pitches and faced 12 batters.
Something needed to change.
Some credit deserved
It wasn’t pretty, but “bad Ubaldo” turned into “not too bad Ubaldo” for the third and fourth. Ubaldo started the third very inauspiciously with a pitch that bounced into Caleb Joseph, but he recovered giving up only a walk, facing four batters. The next inning was similar – somewhat wild, erratic, a nice running and leaping catch by Adam Jones to spare the O’s trouble – but the result, which is all that really counts in baseball, was one hit, four batters faced and no runs for Oakland.
O’s pitching trouble returns
Matt Joyce doubled in the top of the fifth, Khris Davis was called out on strikes and then Ryan Healy absolutely crushed a fastball into the seats to left field. It was a sight to be seen (for A’s fans), as well as his second homerun of the game, making it 5-0 Oakland.
The half inning was a microcosm of what is the mystery of Ubaldo Jimenez that no one seems to be able to solve. He appeared near brilliant sending Khris Davis to the bench looking, and striking out Matt Olsen as well, but the homerun to Healy was a horrible elevated fastball over the middle of the plate that when hit MASN’s Mike Bordick noted, “…would have been out of any park.”
Frankly, it is a shame to see start after start because Jimenez seems like an extremely friendly, professional, stand-up guy, that teammates like, who was vital to the 2016 playoff run. He is just so incredibley inconsistent. Metaphorically, Ubaldo Jimenez is the Gordian Knot of MLB. His final line Tuesday was five innings pitched, five hits, five runs, three homeruns allowed, one walk and four strikeouts.
New pitchers; O’s try to make a game of it
Trey Mancini drilled Paul Blackburn with a line drive off his right side to start the bottom of the fifth. Blackburn left the game, obviously in pain, and ironically both starters were struck with sharply hit balls on Tuesday. Blackburn was very effective with a line of four innings pitched, three hits, no runs on 61 pitches. The hope at this point was that the unexpected call to the bullpen for Simon Castro would work in the O’s favor. Largely, it did.
After the Mancini pinball single, Mark Trumbo greeted Castro with an absolutely smoked line drive to third, but it was caught, and Trey was doubled off first on a very close call. The much talked about and maligned Angel Hernandez made what replays indicate was the correct call.
With Ubaldo gone, it was recently promoted Alec Asher’s turn to try and hold the barn door shut while the O’s offense got going. And on que with two outs in the bottom of the sixth, Manny Machado delivered a two-run homerun – recorded at 110 miles per hour off his bat and way out to center field – cutting the lead to 5-2. The crowd was (somewhat) awake and the O’s were back within striking distance.
Asher stayed out for the seventh, and there was no damage, followed by a 1-2-3 bottom of the inning for the home team. Through seven complete, the O’s needed a comeback.
Final two frames
After an eighth inning single and double, putting two on with no out, it was shower time for Alec Asher and pitching time for Richard Bleier. Bleier quickly induced Bruce Maxwell to hit into a fielder’s choice with the out coming at home plate from Jonathan Schoop to Caleb Joseph, and it was a suddenly a manageable first and third with one outs. Boog Powell – this guy seemed to be at bat whenever there was a big situation – was out on a safety squeeze, and Jed Lowrie grounded out ending the inning. Bleier and O’s team defense did a wonderful job keeping the deficit from getting out of hand.
Chris Davis reached on a leadoff walk in the bottom of the eighth and the at bat was a site to be seen. Down 0-2, Davis battled back, fouled off two pitches, and reached on an eight-pitch walk. Great to watch given his season long struggles. After a Caleb Joseph strikeout and Seth Smith deep lineout, Tim Beckham singled bringing the tying run to the plate.
Weighing in favor of the O’s, the potential tying run was named Manny Machado. Could he deliver in dramatic fashion again after Friday’s grand slam heroics? Kind of. Machado walked on a 3-1 count, obviously they weren’t pitching to him and he showed nice patience to get on base.
Next, it was All-Star Jonathan Schoop’s turn to try and be the hero. Oakland countered with Blake Treinen, a former Washington National. Certainly, the hope from an O’s perspective was that Treinen would pitch how he did while in the Nats bullpen – i.e. not good. Schoop didn’t homer, but he singled sharply to left, plating Davis and Beckham, and it was 5-4 Oakland. Adam Jones grounded out to end the inning, but Baltimore was within one.
With one out in the ninth, Darren O’Day replaced Bleier and he surrendered a home run to Khris Davis to pad the A’s lead. The ball carried extremely well Tuesday at Camden with the humid air, but O’Day has given up a lot of late inning long balls during 2017.
In the bottom of the ninth, Trey Mancini reached via throwing air, and on a 3-1 count, Mark Trumbo bounced into a double play. The air was about out of the balloon for Tuesday. Chris Davis struck out to end the game and it was the same familiar story for much of 2017. Close, but a loss in the end. Starting Wednesday, the Birds (61-65) have 36 games left to right the ship and go on a run to close the season.
Game notes and looking to Wednesday
The Orioles have not won back-back games since August 5-7. That is not a way to make a run at the AL East or Wild Card.
As noted previously on this site when the O’s were on their early August swing through Oakland, A’s skipper Bob Melvin played for Baltimore from 1989-91. Here’s an interesting look back at his baseball cards in an Orioles uniform.
Young Boog Powell hitting his first MLB home run Monday in the vicinity of Boog’s BBQ is incredible and worth another watch. Truth truly is stranger than fiction. Young Boog singled leading off Tuesday’s game and was 2-5 on the evening.
Prior to Thursday’s off day, Wednesday at 3:05ET the Orioles play the A’s again at Camden Yards. Dylan Bundy (12-8, 4.17) is slated to face Sean Manaea (8-8, 4.58). On August 12, against Baltimore in Oakland, Manaea pitched 0.1 innings and gave up six hits and six runs. A repeat performance is more than welcome.