DOM­I­NANCE

Jimenez, with im­proved me­chan­ics, re­tires fi­nal 17 bat­ters in vic­tory

Baltimore Sun - - SPORTS - By Ed­uardo A. Encina

ST. PETERSBURG, FLA. — Given his tur­bu­lent three-year ten­ure with the Ori­oles, right-han­der Ubaldo Jimenez might have been the least likely starter to de­liver the team’s first com­plete game in more than two years.

Jimenez re­gained his spot in the start­ing ro­ta­tion by de­fault when right-han­der Chris Till­man went on the dis­abled list two weeks ago. But since then, the Ori­oles have been treated to a dif­fer­ent Jimenez than the one who la­bored through this sea­son strug­gling to find the strike zone.

And in the Ori­oles’ 7-3 win over the last-place Tampa Bay Rays on Mon­day — the first game of a crit­i­cal nine-game road trip that will also take them through play­off con­tenders De­troit and Bos­ton — Jimenez of­fered one of the most dom­i­nat- Tonight, 7:10 TV: MASN Ra­dio: 105.7 FM IN­SIDE: Left-handed re­liever Duensing ac­ti­vated from dis­abled list; Gam­boa de­buts for Rays AL EAST STAND­INGS Team W-L Toronto 77-60 Bos­ton 76-61 Ori­oles 75-62 New York 71-65 Tampa Bay 58-78 GB — 1 2 5.5 18.5 ing per­for­mances by an Ori­oles starter all sea­son.

“That was fun,” man­ager Buck Showal­ter said. “This is a guy that was one of the best pitch­ers in the game, and on a given night, will be again. I think you can al­most want some­thing too much. Every­body wanted that so much for Ubaldo; the class with which he’s han­dled every­thing that’s been thrown his way. He’s pitched some good games for us. At a time of need, he’s re­ally stepped up with Chris be­ing out.”

Jimenez flipped the script af­ter a first in­ning dur­ing which he fell be­hind quickly af­ter Lo­gan Mor­ri­son’s three-run homer with two outs. But Jimenez did not al­low a hit af­ter that, pitch­ing eight score­less in­nings while re­tir­ing the fi­nal17 bat­ters he faced.

Af­ter al­low­ing Mor­ri­son’s homer, Jimenez re­tired 25 of the last 26 bat­ters he faced, the Rays’ only base run­ner com­ing on a fourth-in­ning walk to Mor­ri­son.

Jimenez’s out­ing marked the Ori­oles’ first com­plete game since Sept. 4, 2014, when Miguel Gon­za­lez went the dis­tance against the Cincin­nati Reds, and was

Jimenez’s first com­plete game since June 1, 2011, pitch­ing for the Colorado Rock­ies at the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Jimenez didn’t hes­i­tate when asked to com­pare the out­ing to the no-hit­ter he threw for Colorado at At­lanta on April 17, 2010. He did, in fact, throw eight hit­less in­nings af­ter Mor­ri­son’s homer.

“Every­thing was good,” said Jimenez, who threw 75 strikes in his 114-pitch out­ing. “The sinker was great, es­pe­cially af­ter the fifth in­ning. I was able to get the ball down and they started hit­ting a lot of ground balls. I was able to throw the break­ing ball, the slider and the split be­hind in the count. Curve was good. Every­thing was per­fect.”

The com­par­i­son comes eas­ily, be­cause Jimenez re­cently said that he feels the best about his me­chan­ics — which has of­ten led to his com­mand prob­lems given his un­con­ven­tional de­liv­ery — that he’s felt in six years.

“My me­chan­ics are where they’re sup­posed to be, and that al­lowed me to ex­e­cute pitches and have good com­mand of the fast­ball,” Jimenez said.

Jimenez walked just one bat­ter Mon­day while strik­ing out six. He used his sinker to get nine ground­ball outs and saw an ef­fec­tive­ness with his fast­ball and split­ter that led to 17 swing-and-miss strikes.

“He threw the ball great,” catcher Matt Wi­eters said. “All of his pitches, I could put them down at any time. He had them all work­ing. I thought the best part of to­day was the men­tal­ity — go out there and throw strikes and give us a chance. And we were able to get him some runs and win the game.”

All were not so im­pressed, such as Mor­ri­son, whois 5-for-8 against Jimenez in his ca­reer and called him “ef­fec­tively wild” on Mon­day.

“I think over­all we have to do a bet­ter job of get­ting the ball in the zone and bar­rel­ing him up,” Mor- Af­ter giv­ing up three runs in the first in­ning, Ubaldo Jimenez did not al­low a run while re­tir­ing the fi­nal 17 bat­ters he faced. ri­son said. “There’s no rea­son that he should have thrown a com­plete game against us to­day. I didn’t think he was that good. He was good, but he wasn’t that good. We got our­selves out a lot.”

Still, Jimenez has recorded qual­ity starts in all three starts since as­sum­ing Till­man’s spot in the ro­ta­tion, post­ing a 2.84 ERA and hold­ing op­pos­ing hit­ters to a .217 bat­ting av­er­age. His big­gest im­prove­ment, how­ever, might be that he’s is­sued just three walks in 212⁄ in­nings in this stretch.

Take into ac­count a spot start Jimenez made for a makeup game in Min­nesota on July 28 — his only out­ing dur­ing a 28-day span from early July to early Au­gust — and Jimenez has a 2.70 ERA over his past four starts.

“He’s ma­ture enough to know there’s go­ing to be an­other op­por­tu­nity when we talked orig­i­nally,” Showal­ter said. “He used the time wisely and got him­self ready when the op­por­tu­nity pre­sented it­self. I don’t think there’s any­body on the team that our guys pull for more just be­cause the way he con­ducts him­self through adversity.”

OnMon­day, Jimenez needed 25 pitches just to get through the first in­ning and seemed des­tined for an­other short start, but he found his groove quickly, and an ea­gerto-swing Rays bat­ting or­der was happy to oblige. Jimenez was at 75 pitches through five in­nings, but needed just eight pitches in the sixth and sev­enth in­nings. He was at 100 pitches ex­actly af­ter eight in­nings be­fore Showal­ter sent him out for the ninth.

“That was awe­some,” said first base­man Chris Davis, who drove in three runs. “I was pretty fired up to see him go back out there for the ninth and get through the whole game. I think early on in the game he ran into a lit­tle bit of trou­ble, ob­vi­ously, but he was able to hang in there and keep go­ing, and that’s kind of the at­ti­tude of this team.”

When Till­man — the team’s most con­sis­tent starter — went down with a shoul­der in­jury last month, it spelled trou­ble for the Ori­oles ro­ta­tion. But the Ori­oles have kept afloat in the ab­sence of their ace, who is slated to re­turn from the DL on Sun­day.

Not only has Jimenez pitched well, but young Kevin Gaus­man and Dy­lan Bundy have taken the much- needed step for­ward through the pen­nant race. Jimenez’s com­plete game was the Ori­oles’ sixth qual­ity start in their past eight games.

“It’s good, es­pe­cially this time of the year,” Jimenez said. “Every­body knows what we’re fight­ing for, and this is the month where we need to give it all. It’s great hav­ing this kind of game for the guys.”

BRIAN BLANCO/GETTY IMAGES

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