Kim, Jimenez un­likely he­roes of play­off push

Out­fielder hit pinch HR in 9th Wed­nes­day; ma­ligned pitcher shut down Jays Thurs­day

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - ORIOLES - By Peter Schmuck [email protected]­sun.com twit­ter.com/Sch­muck­S­top

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.

Imag­ine that.

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