Kim, Jimenez unlikely heroes of playoff push
Outfielder hit pinch HR in 9th Wednesday; maligned pitcher shut down Jays Thursday
Everybody remembers where Hyun Soo Kim was during spring training — seemingly on the way out the door as his string of hitless at-bats stretched through the exhibition season.
And everybody knows that Ubaldo Jimenez appeared to be on the verge of getting his release and leaving the Orioles with a ton of dead payroll just six weeks ago.
So, what exactly were the odds that the two of them would emerge as the heroes of the Orioles final-week playoff push?
Kim was booed as he came down the orange carpet on Opening Day because he refused to accept a minor league assignment after his disastrous spring. He eventually found his way into the lineup and has been the Orioles’ top on-base threat.
Jimenez has never been a favorite of Orioles fans after signing a $50 million contract in 2014 and struggling badly through his first season in Baltimore. He pitched better in 2015 — but not great — and was having a horrible 2016 when the light finally came on in late August.
Now, he’s doing what he did at the end of the 2013 season, when he got on the terrific roll that persuaded Orioles baseball operations chief Dan Duquette to give him that big four-year deal.
The great philosopher and famous 1930s ventriloquist’s dummy Mortimer Snerd said it best: “Who’d a thunk it?”
Kim is the real outlier. Everyone — scouts, baseball executives, media — was convinced that he was barely a Double-A player during and after the long spring hitting drought. No one would have imagined him hitting the game-changing, wild-card-influencing home run off Toronto Blue Jays closer Roberto Osuna on Wednesday night.
Jimenez, at least, had been a quality starting pitcher at a couple of other junctures of his career, but he would not be on the Orioles roster right now if the club had anyone in the organization who could have come up in August and helped shore up the starting rotation.
He worked with pitching coach Dave Wallace and bullpen coach Dom Chiti, and bonded with Ramon Martinez, and suddenly bloomed again just when the Orioles needed him most.
He pitched very well in a loss to the Washington Nationals on Aug. 25 to begin a seven-start ride during which the club has won five times, and during which he has a 2.45 ERA.
When you throw in the fact that two of the club’s victories over that span were against the Blue Jays and he is working on a string of 17 innings without allowing an earned run, it’s hard to think of anyone else starting the wild-card game if the Orioles are still standing.