Jimenez brings the stuff, but Nats bring Scherzer
Entering this split-city, fourgame series with the Nationals, the Orioles were reeling. With three wins already in their satchels and a trip to New York looming, a very “que sera, sera” vibe floated around. Even so, they gave their best hacks against Scherzer. Jimenez pitched one of his best games of the season. The Orioles still lost.
“He went out there and I’m pretty sure many people didn’t expect him to do what he did,” center fielder Adam Jones said. “Six innings. One pitch I know he wants to have back. But he threw the hell out of the ball.”
Most remarkable was that Jimenez, who entered the day with 5.61 walks per nine innings, didn’t issue a free pass. All season, he has been derailed by throwing a rare combination of too many pitches off the plate and too many pitches out over it.
“I felt good,” Jimenez said. “I was able to command the fastball, throw the breaking ball behind in the count. Everything was good.”
He mostly stayed down in the zone, went to just five full counts in six innings, and was only burned when Nationals left fielder Jayson Werth blasted a fastball over the center-field fence to open the fourth inning.
Before then, Jimenez had been every bit Scherzer’s equal. The Nationals starter didn’t allow a hit his first time through the Orioles order. Jimenez had allowed just one. Scherzer, too, allowed a big hit to lead off the fourth — a double by Adam Jones — but recovered without allowing a run. That was where their nights differed.
Scherzer continued to cruise, but Jimenez had to work around trouble in the fifth. He struck out three in that inning, the final coming in a crucial at-bat when Werth had runners on second and third base for him.
A breezy sixth inning marked the end of Jimenez’s outing, when he turned the ball over to Logan Ondrusek. On Ondrusek’s watch, a one-run deficit turned into a two-run hole, and by the time the Orioles had their last hacks in the ninth inning, they trailed 4-0. Jimenez fell to 5-11, and the Orioles traveled north on a sour note.
Even the most hardened critic, though, can find something to smile about in this recent outing. After getting chased from the rotation with a 6.89 ERA in mid-June, then getting a spot back by necessity and leaving the rotation again at the All-Star break with a 7.38 ERA, Jimenez has since cut a sad figure around an Orioles team that has largely gone on without him.
After spoiling the Orioles’ 50thanniversary celebration of the 1966 World Series champions with a start during which he allowed five runs and left having retired four batters, he sat for 19 days before his first no-win assignment of the second half. Jimenez was inserted into the starting rotation for a one-time appearance for the one-day makeup game in Minnesota on July 28, allowing a run in five innings before the relief combination of Odrisamer Despaigne and Chaz Roe made it a 6-2 loss for the visitors.
That had an eerily similar feeling to Thursday. Jimenez’s pleasant surprise of an outing was for naught, the pitchers who followed him seemingly prescribed beforehand and not including any of the Orioles’ top relievers.
With Tillman facing at least two weeks on the shelf with shoulder bursitis, the Orioles might need more than just these one-off starts in no-win situations from Jimenez. They’ll soon shift to must-wins, though Showalter wouldn’t commit to him making another start.
“I don’t know what else he has to do,” Showalter said. “It’s a place where he’s pitched well, and a team he’s pitched well against. We’ll step back and take a look at it and continue to try to put our best foot forward. He certainly did tonight.”
Said Jimenez: “That’s everything I’ve done in my career, start. I know why I was put in the bullpen, but it’s very good to have this one and the one in Minnesota, too. Hopefully, I get some more, but wherever they put me, I’m going to try to do the best I can to be there for the team.”