Baltimore Orioles: Don’t blame Ubaldo Jimenez for loss to Boston

Ubaldo Jimenez saw action in last nights game for the Baltimore Orioles; for the first time since Sunday. Jimenez surrendered two runs, immediately drawing the ire of an Orioles’ fanbase that ran out of patience with him long ago. All in all for that reason, he seemed to be the perfect scapegoat for the Birds’ 5-2 loss. But is that really fair?

Dylan Bundy was fairly effective last night, however he exited after only five innings due to a triple-digit pitch count. Bundy’s line: 5.0 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 4 K. The two runs that he gave up came on a fourth inning home run by Ramirez, which gave Boston a 2-0 lead.

Boston hitters fouled off a lot of pitches in this game, which drove Bundy’s pitch count up. There were several hitters who had seven or eight-pitch at-bats. This has been a problem for Oriole pitchers all year, and it’s tough to put a finger on why that is. Certainly in some manner you have to tip your cap to opposing hitters because they’re zeroed in at the plate trying to get a base hit. But…why does it keep happening?

My personal theory is that a lot of teams are trying to take what the defense is giving the in a sense, as opposed to always trying to hit the ball out of the ballpark. While they haven’t hit-for-power too much this year, Boston’s a power-slugging team just like the Orioles. So whereas if a pitch is slightly off, the Orioles are more likely to let it go by – because it’s not a home run pitch. However other teams are trying to foul that pitch off and protect the plate (with two strikes of course) because they’re just trying to get on base.

Either way, Oriole pitchers end up getting their pitch counts elevated, and the bullpen has to enter much earlier than otherwise. In this case however the O’s were able to cut the lead in half in the seventh, with a home run off the bat of Manny Machado. Then Jimenez came in to pitch the bottom of the inning…

…and Boston tacked on two additional runs. Bogaerts scored a run reaching on a fielder’s choice, and Ramirez smacked an RBI-double to left. Boston would tack on an additional run in the ninth (against Hart) on a Betts RBI-single. Mancini would drive a run in on an RBI-double in the ninth, however that’s as close as the Orioles could get and they fell by the aforementioned score of 5-2.

My aim here isn’t to defend Jimenez until the cows come home. He’s obviously responsible for those two runs, and they didn’t help matters. My point has always been that when the calls for DFA him now start coming up I think a lot of people don’t realize what that means. The Orioles would be paying Jimenez essentially NOT to play for them. Any other team could then pick him up, again on the Orioles’ dime.

There’s one proviso to that in a sense; if nobody claims him after ten days, he could opt to stay in the Orioles’ system and go to the minors. But someone would pick him up. And the next response is well I’d love to see Ubaldo pitch against the Orioles. Please folks, do you not know what the law of averages says about how that story ends?

Mind you that Jimenez was coming off of a pretty decent outing on Sunday in Houston. It’s easy to suggest that if not for Jimenez the game would have been tied with the run in the ninth inning. But Boston scored a fifth run off of Hart in the ninth as well. So are we saying all things being equal except the additional run that was scored while Ubaldo was on the bench, and the game would have been tied?

My point is that this game was lost because Boston’s Price was in the zone all night, and Oriole bats couldn’t figure him out. NOT because Jimenez gave up two runs in the seventh inning. If the O’s had the lead or the game had been tied, that might be a different story.

One positive spin was that the O’s forced Boston’s hand in bringing their closer, Kimbrell, in during the eighth inning. All in all after a laborious ninth inning, he threw north of thirty pitches – a lot for a closer. So would Kimbrell in theory not be available today if needed? Interesting question. However while I suspect they’d use him if they were in a save situation (because they’re off on Monday), the question is how effective would he be?  Either way, the Orioles may have helped themselves out for today’s game by making him work.

The series concludes this afternoon at Camden Yards. Chris Tillman will be on the mound for the Orioles, and he’ll be opposed by Boston’s Chris Sale. Game time is set for just after 1:30 PM.

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