NEW YORK — This wasn’t the first impression right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez wanted to give his new team or his new fan base, but the Orioles’ top offseason acquisition has struggled through his first two starts with the club.
Following the Orioles’ 4-2 loss to New York in the Yankees’ home opener at Yankees Stadium on Monday afternoon, Jimenez talked about being crippled by not being able to locate his breaking ball.
The result was a short 4 2/3-inning outing in which he issued five walks and was chased from the game after reaching 109 pitches, the first time he didn’t get out of the fifth inning in 11 starts dating back to last August.
“I wanted it to go another way,” said Jimenez, who has lost both of his first two Orioles starts. “I wanted to win for the team. I haven’t been able to do that. I have to keep working and get ready for my next one.”
“It was all about getting the breaking ball down,” he said. “It was kind of tough to throw inside and especially, I couldn’t find any of them to put away hitters. I was able to get ahead, but I couldn’t put any away with the breaking ball because none of them were working.”
A patient Yankees lineup took its free passes and jumped on Jimenez’s mistakes, making for some long innings for the Orioles’ right-hander. Following a 32-pitch fourth inning, he threw 27 pitches in the fifth before leaving the game with the bases loaded and two outs.
“He went through some really good sequences and then just got out of whack,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “He was just missing a lot of pitches. But he had the type of stuff that gets you a lot deeper in the game. He'd just go through spurts where he couldn't command it. It was a cold day and he was trying to get a feel for the baseball, but you guys watched it. It wasn't like they banged him around all over the ballpark. He just couldn't get consistent with it.
“I know he's frustrated because there was a lot longer outing there potentially today,” Showalter added.
The loss was the Orioles’ fifth in their last six games, and was compounded by the club’s continuing offensive struggles and a pair of costly baserunning errors.
Seven games into this young season, it’s still early for the Orioles (2-5), who opened a string of 16 straight games against AL East opponents in Monday’s series opener in New York. But the Orioles have scored three or fewer runs in five of their first seven games and after leading the majors last season with 212 homers, the Orioles have hit just three homers so far.
“Every game it feels like it’s there,” said Orioles designated hitter Nelson Cruz, who drove in one run but was also doubled up on the basepaths. “Hopefully tomorrow is the day we bring a bunch of runs like we’re supposed to do. … It’s early, but no doubt we’ve kind of struggled to get the runs going.”
But a day after Chris Tillman turned in the best performance by an Orioles starter this season -- allowing one run in 8 1/3 innings Sunday to salvage a much-needed win in Detroit -- Jimenez couldn’t keep the momentum going in New York.
In his two starts with the Orioles, Jimenez has allowed 21 base runners -- including eight walks -- over 10 2/3 innings and he has a 6.75 ERA. The Orioles lost both games in which Jimenez started.
“He might not show it to you all, but he knows he had good stuff,” Showalter said. “He was pretty crisp. It wasn't like he was throwing it all over the ballpark. He was just barely missing with a lot of pitches and actually had some counts very early that were in his favor. You saw. There were some swings... Nobody really got on him today. There were some balls that fell in that he made good pitches on.”
The 30-year-old Jimenez, who was signed to a four-year, $50 million deal – the most lucrative given to a free-agent starting pitcher in club history -- in February, struggled with the bottom half of the Yankees order more than the top in Monday's game.
Jimenez issued a leadoff walk to No. 9 hitter Yangervis Solarte in the third inning. Solarte would score two batters later after a single by Brett Gardner moved him to third base and Derek Jeter grounded into a 1-6-3 double play.
After the Orioles tied the game, 1-1, on Matt Wieters’ two-out RBI single in the top of the fourth, the Yankees regained the lead in the bottom half. Jimenez allowed a single to Alfonso Soriano and issued a two-out walk to No. 8 hitter Kelly Johnson before Solarte singled in Soriano to give the Yankees a 2-1 lead.
“I have to find a way to stop those guys from getting on base, so every time they got on base, the top guys swung the bat,” Jimenez said.
New York (4-3) went up, 3-1, on Jimenez in the fifth when Jeter’s leadoff double off the left-field fence was followed by Jacoby Ellsbury's bloop single to center field. Even though Wieters threw out Ellsbury attempting to steal second, Jimenez loaded the bases after a pair of singles and a two-out walk to former Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts.
Left-hander Zach Britton came in for Jimenez and issued a five-pitch walk that plated another Yankees run, but then retired the next six batters he faced.
“I just wasn't able to throw a good quality strike, so that’s frustrating -- letting Ubaldo’s run come in and just kind of giving them a two-run lead,” Britton said. “I think when you’re down by one, as an offense it feels a little more reachable, especially when you are fighting for runs. I didn't want to give them that extra run, but i did my best to hold them there and give our guys an opportunity to win the game.”
Yankees right-hander Hiroki Kuroda held the Orioles to two runs over 6 1/3 innings, but left the game with two base runners on in the seventh.
Trailing 4-1 in the seventh, the Orioles were primed for a big inning when Chris Davis’ leadoff double was followed by Wieters’ single and Nelson Cruz’s RBI double.
But after Kuroda induced a fly out from Steve Lombardozzi, the Yankees played matchups with the bottom of the Orioles order as left-hander Matt Thornton retired Ryan Flaherty and right-hander David Phelps retired Jonathan Schoop to strand the tying run on second.
The Orioles also helped out Kuroda with two costly base-running blunders that ended innings. In the second inning, Nelson Cruz was doubled off first base when he passed second base on Lombardozzi’s fly out to center field and wasn’t able to return in time.
“There’s no excuse,” Cruz said. “I made a mistake. I thought the ball was going to drop. I saw the right fielder because it was hit more to right field. But with the wind, I saw the replay and I thought the win probably took it more to center field long enough for the center fielder to catch, but that’s no excuse.”
Following a two-out double down the left-field line by Schoop in the fifth, he was caught too far off second base and thrown out by catcher Brian McCann.
“I got caught,” Schoop said. “I thought it was two strikes and then I see the guy swing the bat and stop and I saw the [catcher] throw the ball. When I tried to go back, I slipped.”
“Those mistakes cannot happen,” Schoop added. “There’s no excuse for those mistakes. You cannot control if you are going to get a base hit, but this mistake you can control. It’s not going to happen, you know? You got to learn from it.”Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun