A trip to Houston to face the Astros could be just the right thing to break Orioles right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez out of a funk that has resulted in a pair of sub-par starts.
Jimenez goes into Thursday’s start in Houston with 4-0 record and 2.32 ERA in eight career starts against the Astros. He is also 2-0 with a 2.37 ERA in five starts at Minute Maid Park.
He didn’t pitch against the Astros when they played in Baltimore earlier this season. His last start against Houston came on Sept. 19 of last season, when he pitched for the Indians. In that outing, he allowed just one run on six hits over seven innings, struck out nine and walked none.
After allowing just one earned run in his first three May starts spanning 19 2/3 innings, Jimenez has allowed 10 earned runs in his last two starts over nine innings.
The Orioles have won each of their last five road series openers and are 6-3 in series openers away from Camden Yards this season.
** By now, you know that Nelson Cruz’s 19 home runs lead the majors.
He has 12 in May and has set a new Orioles club record for homers in the month. He passed Jim Gentile (1962) and Eddie Murray (1987), who both hit 11.
** With his hard, power sinker, Orioles left-hander Zach Britton leads the majors in groundball-to-flyball ratio (12.6 to 1) and groundball percentage (79.7). Opponents are hitting just .175 against him and have just three extra base hits off him in 109 plate appearances.
Britton had the day off on Wednesday in Milwaukee after appearing in three straight games.
** Speaking of the bullpen, the Orioles could make a roster move before Thursday’s game to add an extra reliever. Right-hander Kevin Gausman is slated to start for Norfolk tomorrow. Read into that what you may.
We know it won’t be right-hander Josh Stinson, who made his first 2014 start for Triple-A Norfolk on Thursday after spending the early season as a reliever. Stinson allowed four runs on eight hits over 4 1/3 innings vs. Lehigh Valley, striking out six and walking two.
Right-hander Evan Meek, who was taken off the 40-man roster, also pitched in that game. He can still reject the assignment and become a free agent between now and Saturday, even though he’s pitched to the Tides.