Written by Bruce Smith (VaTech1994)
By Bruce Smith (VaTech1994)
After a long doubleheader last night in Baltimore, the Orioles opened a three game series in Minnesota with a well-pitched win by a score of 3-0. Ubaldo Jimenez displayed the skillset that Orioles’ fans had been imagining but had yet to see and Nelson Cruz walloped a two run homer in the win.
The win got the Orioles to three games over .500 for the first time this season at 15-12. This was the third win in a row for the Orioles which equals their longest winning streak of the admittedly young season. The Orioles are tied for first place in the AL East with New York Yankees at press time.
Due to the off days, Ubaldo Jimenez got the Friday start for the second week in a row. Last week I predicted that Jimenez would be a feast-or-famine pitcher for the Orioles because, while his stuff is well above average, his command is very inconsistent. Well tonight Ubaldo feasted like George Costanza on a free shrimp buffet. If you don’t get that reference, I weep for your lack of pop culture knowledge and offer this phenomenal clip from Seinfeld, Season 8, Episode 13, called “The Comeback” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Comeback_(Seinfeld)) for your viewing pleasure: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0KmTTy_MM5w Watch it, you won’t regret it.
Jimenez was masterful tonight. The Twins hit almost nothing hard, swung and missed 17 times, and just generally had weak swings throughout the game. While Ubaldo did a lot of things right tonight, the pitch that set up the whole outing was the knee-high fastball strike. Jimenez threw this pitch at will throughout his outing and it made his splitter and slider virtually unhittable. He was also able to load up and throw the ball at 93 mph when he needed a little extra. He threw so many strikes that he got the normally patient Twins, who lead the American League in walks, to swing at quite a few bad pitches.
Jimenez’s final line was 7.1 IP, 3 hits, 0 R, 1 BB, 10 K, and the win. It was an outstanding performance and reminded Orioles’ fans why the Orioles committed four years to the righty.
Zach Britton relieved Jimenez in the 8th with a runner on 2nd base and continued to be filthy. He got the first hitter on a hard grounder to third and then struck out Joe Mauer looking on a nasty slider.
Tommy Hunter came in to finish out the game despite pitching in both games of Thursday’s doubleheader. Though he gave up a ringing double to the first hitter he faced, he struck out the next two hitters and ended the game with a routine grounder to second base. He looked like he had plenty in his arm tonight, but I’d guess he isn’t available tomorrow after pitching in three games in two days.
The Orioles hit several of the hardest line drives anyone will ever see at a baseball game. Matt Wieters lined a curveball off the right field wall in his first at bat and a fastball off the center field wall in his second plate appearance. The second hit knocked in the Orioles’ first run of the game.
Manny Machado crushed a ball in the first inning that was caught by Sam Fuld as he crashed into the centerfield wall. Two at bats later Manny got his first hit of the season when he smoked a double off the left field wall on a slider in the middle of the plate. Nelson Cruz followed with what I believe is the hardest hit ball from an Orioles’ hitter this year when he lined a low fastball of the facing of the third deck in left field. The prodigious home run gave the Orioles a 3-0 lead which was more than Jimenez needed this on this beautiful early May evening.
While the Orioles hit a bunch of balls hard, Ricky Nolasco also showcased a nice slider and tricky change up. These pitches kept the Orioles from doing any serious damage and Nolasco finished with a complete game in the loss.
Jonathan Schoop made an error on a slow bouncer up the middle. It wasn’t an easy play because he had to range so far and backhand the ball, but the official scorer ruled it an error.
Manny Machado seems to make a great play in virtually every game and tonight was no exception. He dove to stab a hard grounder in the 8th with a runner on second base and easily threw him out at first to preserve the shutout.
Key Moments In The Game
Cruz’s homer gave the Orioles enough of an edge that everyone could relax a bit and enjoy the masterful performance by Jimenez.
Machado looked to be in mid-season form in his second game back.
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