CINCINNATI - Ubaldo Jiménez retired the Reds in order in the first inning tonight on only 11 pitches. Three ground balls, including a bunt that reached the front of the mound.
No need to stop the presses, but at least pause to reflect.
Jiménez had to throw 30 pitches to clear the first inning in his first start against the Yankees, when he managed to limit the damage to one run. He threw 104 in 4 1/3 innings against the Red Sox after the Orioles staked him to a nine-run lead at Fenway Park.
The efficiency tonight was a breath of fresh air. Or chili ordered four ways, since we’re in Cincinnati.
(So much for fresh air.)
Jiménez cleared six innings on 86 pitches and kept going after lasting only 4 1/3 in each of his first two starts. He cleared seven innings on 94 pitches and kept going. He got two outs in the eighth, Donnie Hart replaced him and stranded a runner on third base and the Orioles defeated the Reds 2-0 at Great American Ball Park.
Hart retired Joey Votto on a fly ball to Craig Gentry in foul territory after Billy Hamilton walked, stole second and moved to third on a ground ball. Brad Brach easily recorded for his fourth career save with Zach Britton on the disabled list.
Jiménez retired 18 of the last 21 batters. He didn’t allow a hit after Tucker Barnhart’s two-out single in the second that originally was scored an error on Chris Davis. Jiménez has a 0.80 ERA in four career starts in Cincinnati.
Two of the first six Reds bunted the ball back to the mound. Jiménez’s first inning consisted of 1-3, 5-3 and 4-3 putouts. He worked out of a bases-loaded, two-out jam in the second after a single, walk and infield hit.
It helps when the pitcher has to bat. Rookie Amir Garrett grounded into a force.
The Orioles staked Jiménez to a 1-0 lead in the second inning. Mark Trumbo led off with a single and Welington Castillo doubled with one out to put two runners in scoring position. Trumbo scored on Jonathan Schoop’s single into center field.
Garrett struck out J.J. Hardy and Jiménez to strand Castillo at third base.
Castillo’s double gave him 14 hits in 40 at-bats this season. Schoop’s single made him 11-for-24 with seven RBIs in his last seven games.
Jiménez retired the side in order again in the third inning on 12 pitches to leave his total at 40. He got a strikeout, ground ball and liner to left field. And he stranded Scott Schebler in the fourth after a two-out walk and stolen base, with all three outs coming on ground balls to Hardy.
Jiménez was up to 60 pitches. Still no worries except for the slim margin, and maybe the 31 strikes among those 60 pitches.
Jiménez retired the Reds in order in the fifth and seventh innings. A one-out walk in the sixth proved harmless.
Mancini, in his first game as leadoff hitter, took the first pitch from Garrett before swinging through a high fastball with the count 2-2. He grounded to short in his next at-bat and singled in the fifth before Gentry replaced him in left field in the seventh.
Garrett’s 12 strikeouts in seven innings tied the Reds modern club record for a rookie left-hander.
Jiménez on difference between tonight and first two starts: “I was able to control the ball and make it sink in the lower half instead of it being flat like in my first two starts. That was it. I was able to get on top of that ball and get ground balls.”
Jiménez on his tempo being good: “Yeah, especially after the fifth inning. I was able to get my breaking balls going. That was something I didn’t have in the first four innings. I just had my sinker, but after I got into a good rhythm I was able to throw everything for strikes.”
Jiménez on warmer weather helping: “Yeah, it helps with the breaking ball, but in my first two games, even though the weather wasn’t good, my fastball was flat. I wasn’t able to get on top of the ball. Everything was up in the zone. I usually get a lot of ground balls, but that was something I wasn’t able to do in those first two starts.”
Jiménez on 11-pitch first: “It’s always good when you start hitting the zone right away and getting quick outs. It gives you confidence going into the next inning.”
Jiménez on whether he considered it a big start: “Yeah, there’s no doubt about it. I needed a start like this. I needed to be there for my team and I’m glad I was able to do that tonight.”
Jiménez on falling behind in the count early: “When I started falling behind, it was because I didn’t have my breaking ball at first and that made me fall behind in the count, but I was able to get back with the sinker. Welington called a great game and I was able to execute the pitches.”
Brach on whether he anticipated pitching the ninth: “Just a little bit there. Like I said, Buck hasn’t said anything about me or Darren (O’Day) definitely being the closer, but Darren warmed up in the eighth inning and I figured if he wasn’t used there, I most likely would have the ninth. I was just kind of going with the flow of the game and seeing how it worked out.”
Brach on whether the ninth felt different: “I had a little bit of adrenaline going there a little bit extra that first batter. That first-pitch pop up helped a lot. I kind of settled down there and got back in a rhythm. Besides that it felt the same. After I got the first out I felt like I’ve been pitching the rest of the year.”
Brach on Jiménez’s pace making it easier for him: “Yeah, definitely. I think anytime a pitcher is pitching like Ubaldo was tonight it makes it a lot easier. You don’t have to be down there for three, 3 1/2 hours waiting for your turn to pitch. Him going through the lineup like he did, getting quick outs, was huge.”
Showalter on Jiménez keeping the ball down: “He filled up the bottom of the zone tonight. Had enough secondary pitches working for him. I thought Welington was good with him. With a lot of catchers you can be good when you have those things at your disposal. I thought his tempo, a lot of ground balls, a lot of pretty good plays made behind him because guys were engaged in the game.
“He knows all this. It’s just being able to execute it. That’s about as good as you’ll see him stay together in his delivery for an extended period of time. Donnie got a big out. Gentry made a big play and Brad was pretty impressive picking up for Zach there.”
Showalter on Jiménez’s 11-pitch first inning: “One of the keys was the bunt right back to the pitcher. It seemed like that guy (Hamilton) has been on base like twice an inning, so a lot of good things happen for them when he’s on base.”
Showalter on whether this is a carryover from spring training: “His velocity has come earlier in the year than it has in the three previous years, and I thought that bode well because the only thing he was working on was trying to be consistent in his delivery. It’s an ongoing challenge for him like it was for (Kevin) Gausman last night.
“Gausman was out of synch delivery-wise, and spent a lot of time on it today. It’s hard to do, to stay there for 30, 35 starts. That’s what guys are constantly working on, which allows you to deliver all your pitches.”
Showalter on Jiménez’s tempo being good for everyone: “It is for the guys behind him. That’s something that’s been a challenge for him, and it’s not because he works slow. He had a lot of counts in his favor and when he did get behind he made a quality pitch. One of the toughest pitches to execute, but it’s a separator, is the 2-0 fastball - quality located fastball at 2-0 when you get behind that you can get back in the count. When he did get behind, he made a pitch to get back in the count.”
Showalter on Jiménez falling behind early, but not letting it hurt him: “Instead of that 2-0 pitch being center-cut, it was a place where he could still get an out if the guy was aggressive.”
Showalter on Brach: “I think Brad’s graduated to the point where he knows he’s pretty good at this and he’s not going to go out there feeling his way around. He’s going to come at you. And Donnie had a big out. That’s a tough hitter. He hits well against left- and right-handed hitters.”
Showalter on Garrett: “You can see why they’re so high on him and we didn’t exactly solve him.”