Ubaldo Jimenez appeared to be headed toward another early exit tonight. Nine Toronto batters faced in two innings. Three walks. A two-run homer from Juan Francisco. Fans already booing as he walked off the mound.
In serious need of a quality start, Jimenez retired nine in a row and made it through the sixth with only two runs against him, but the Orioles failed to offer any offensive support in a 4-0 loss before 44,031 at Camden Yards.
Jimenez lasted only 2 1/3 innings in his previous start. However, he tied his season high with five walks tonight and left with his pitch count at 101.
“Better,” said manager Buck Showalter. “Five walks kept him from going deeper in the game. He was fortunate. Got a line drive at somebody early. Ground ball to get out of the first inning. But we just didn’t do much offensively.
“Presented himself better. The walks are still an issue, but I thought his stuff was better. Down in the zone a little more against a good-hitting team.”
Drew Hutchison hasn’t allowed more than two earned runs in any of his five career starts against the Orioles, posting a 1.16 ERA in 31 innings. He blanked them over seven innings tonight.
“He’s a good pitcher with good stuff,” Showalter said. “He locates pretty well pitching in and out. Stays pretty consistent. He’s pretty good against some other people. I can’t really put my hand on one thing. I think that’s probably it, because it’s not just one thing that he does well.”
The Orioles have lost 11 of Jimenez’s 14 starts. Is it due to the poor tempo he’s established and how the team is constantly playing from behind?
“I’d hate to think that,” Showalter said. “That’s a very convenient way to perceive it and find that angle, but we didn’t score any runs tonight. No matter how he pitched, we didn’t score any runs. And I thought he gave us a good chance to win a baseball game tonight.
“I thought he showed a little something there with the last out because it was a tough decision whether to leave him in, and to get (Edwin) Encarnacion out in that situation, that’s a pretty good finish for him, so hopefully that will carry over.”
The Orioles have scored three runs or fewer in 11 of Jimenez’s 14 starts and one or fewer in six. Again, is the issue tied to the poor rhythm that he establishes with all the walks?
“That’s easy to say that’s the reason,” Showalter said. “It’s not somebody consciously going through that mentally. If it is, that would be a pretty weak mental approach that I don’t think we have.
“Sometimes, you try to do too much. There’s nothing worse in this game, pitching, hitting, when you’re trying almost too hard. The effort is always there. I don’t think it’s something our guys are aware of. They don’t talk about it.”
The Orioles were subjected to more rain and another delay, but so were the Blue Jays. No excuses.
“It’s tough,” Showalter said. “Tommy (Hunter) had only thrown seven, eight, nine pitches. It’s a long inning, obviously, but it’s the same for both teams. It’s part of what we do. Nothing’s always convenient and 70 degrees. They don’t change the conditions for one team or the other.
“We had a lot of stuff in the area and they felt we might get dumped on for 15-20 minutes if we didn’t cover the field. Also, the lightning, the fans. I get the stoppage. It’s been kind of a jagged edge the whole season with the schedule and everything, but we can’t do anything about the weather.”
Caleb Joseph stayed in the game after being hit on the right hand by a Hutchison pitch, and he later threw out Anthony Gose trying to steal second base. The ball caught him on two fingers, and Showalter initially was concerned that he’d have to make a change behind the plate.
“Tough kid,” Showalter said. “He took a pretty good pop there.”