Jimenez pitches O’s to 4-0 win
have to go with everything. And every game is big.”
“This time of year, momentum is huge,” said catcher Matt Wieters, who drove in a run in the eighth. “Over 162 [games], momentum is going to come and go, but once you start getting closer to the playoffs, momentum is big. We’re going to try to keep it going as long as we can, keep the momentum going when you’re going good and when you’re not going good, you’ve got to stop that and turn it around.”
Jimenez (8-12), who threw a season-high 116 pitches, allowed just one hit — Ezequiel Carerra’s leadoff single in the first — and retired 20 of the final 22 batters he faced.
Over his seven starts since returning to the starting rotation, Jimenez has a 2.45 ERA. He has also turned in two of the team’s top pitching performances this month, including a completegame win at Tampa Bay on Sept. 5.
Jimenez has not allowed an earned run over his past17 innings.
“It felt great,” Jimenez said. “There’s no words to put it [in perspective], but all of the guys they know what we are playing for and everyone is doing their parts, especially the last two games.”
The Orioles’ quest to reach the postseason heads to New York, where the team will close the regular season with three games at Yankee Stadium beginning tonight. The Orioles’ win Thursday officially eliminated the Yankees from postseason consideration.
The Orioles came to Canada hoping to hold on to the second wild-card spot, and go into their final series with a chance to host the wild-card game, which is scheduled for Tuesday night.
There’s still plenty of work to do, including dodging bad weather that could push the end of the series to Monday. The Orioles and Blue Jays, who close with three games in Boston, are 11⁄ games ahead of the Detroit Tigers, whose game Thursday in Orioles starter Ubaldo Jimenez is congratulated by Chris Davis before being relieved. Jimenez has not allowed an earned run in his past 17 innings. Cleveland was postponed.
The Orioles offense didn’t produce much in Toronto, scoring eight runs in three games, but the team pitched well enough to salvage two wins at Rogers Centre, where it had lost five of seven before this week.
The latest highlight was a sparkling performance by Jimenez, who has seen his confidence rise with his success. The key to his turnaround has been finding command of his sinker. He used it Thursday, inducing10 ground-ball outs. Jimenez struck out five.
“Everything was good,” he said. The “sinker was down. All my breaking balls were good. I was able to throw it ahead in the count, behind in the count, in any count. … Command of the fastball, that has been the main thing for me. To get ahead, stay ahead and throw the fastball wherever I want — up, down, away, inside.”
Jimenez held top power hitters Josh Donaldson, Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista hitless in nine plate appearances. The Toronto trio is a combined 17-for-107 (.159) against Jimenez in his career.
The Blue Jays put their first two batters on base when Jimenez walked Donaldson after Carrera’s leadoff single, but Jimenez retired the next three batters to end a 23-pitch first inning.
Jimenez then retired 17 of the next 18 batters before issuing a two-out walk to Encarnacion. He induced a loud but harmless flyout from Bautista to end the inning.
“He’s pounding the zone,” Wieters said of Jimenez. “He’s going right at hitters and I think before in the past, he got himself in trouble with some 0-2 to 3-2 [count] type things and now he’s just going after hitters and making pitches when he has to. He feels real good right now and we feel good playing behind him.”