The Orioles tried to give Ubaldo Jimenez some work in a pressure-free situation Sunday afternoon, allowing the struggling right-hander to work the ninth inning with a seven-run lead.
But Jimenez would last just five batters after loading the bases and walking in a run. He issued three walks and allowed a double to Brian Dozier, allowing four of the five batters he faced to reach base.
After he left the mound to a chorus of boos from the hometown crowd at Camden Yards, he was charged with two more runs when Tommy Hunter gave up a two-run single that suddenly created a tense situation and a save opportunity for Zach Britton.
It was just Jimenez’s second appearance in relief since he was moved to the bullpen. He hadn’t pitched in nine days, but it seemed like a good opportunity to give him some work.
With rosters expanding today and the Orioles likely bringing up a pair of relievers in right-hander Ryan Webb and left-hander Joe Saunders, it will be interesting to see how many opportunities Jimenez receives – even in mop-up duty – down the stretch.
-- Even though he had a career-high four hits, Orioles catcher Caleb Joseph wasn’t happy about allowing eight runs Sunday.
“I’m here to play defense,” Joseph said. “I’m kind of angry we gave up eight runs today, so I could care less whether I get four hits or not. We kind of gave them a chance to somewhat get back into it. That makes me angry. We’ve got to get back to the drawing board and figure out how to keep the runs down.”
In “getting back to the drawing board,” Joseph said he was going to take a long look at the way he called pitches later in the game.
“Just looking at what the location was, making sure it was the right pitch, the right sequences,” Joseph said. “It’s nothing abnormal. We do that every night. It’s nothing really unusual. That’s what you do before games, you prepare that way to help you be better next time.”
-- Shortstop J.J. Hardy’s grand slam might have been the highlight of the afternoon, but Hardy also made three plays in the field that didn’t go unnoticed.
In the fifth inning, Hardy ranged up the middle on a ball by Twins catcher Eric Fryer, extended to make the grab and spun to throw out Fryer at first. On a slow rolling shift play in the seventh, Hardy ran down Kennys Vargas’ grounder and tossed to first. And Hardy ended the game in the ninth, short-hopping a high chopper from Eduardo Nunez, stepping on second base in mid-stride and throwing to first for a double play.
“The three plays J.J. made in the field today -- the ball up the middle, the shift play that he goes over and makes in a key situation, and the play that ended the game is a very difficult play,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “You start to take the hop and take the out because you've got a fast runner and he makes a quick decision to take the short hop on a hard, chewed-up field at that point in the game and turn the double play.
"People, just the naked eye, they see a play up the middle, kind of routine. They are far from routine. Those are plays he's spoiled us with, but we don't take them for granted. He's a special defender."
-- Ryan Flaherty and David Lough haven’t received many at-bats recently, but each played a major role in Sunday’s win as both made their first start since Aug. 16.
Flaherty hit a big three-run homer that gave the Orioles a 4-0 lead, then he missed a second homer by a few inches on a ball off the right-center field fence that ended up being a triple.
Lough recorded his first three-hit game since April, also scoring two runs while hitting from the No. 2 spot. It was his first multihit game since July 23 in Anaheim.
“If you are not in there every day, you got to try to make the most of your opportunity and find a way to help the team in some way,” Flaherty said. “Whether it’s with the glove, bat, something. Do something to help the team win that day.”
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