WASHINGTON — Ubaldo Jimenez wore a proud smile, as well as remnants of a celebratory shaving cream pie given to him by teammates Gerardo Parra and Wei-Yin Chen, following the Orioles' 4-1 victory over the Washington Nationals on Tuesday night.
Yes, the Orioles' win at Nationals Park was a messy one. The Orioles committed three errors and walked six batters, five of those issued by Jimenez. But right now, it doesn't matter how they get them — the Orioles just need wins.
With less than two weeks remaining in the regular season, the Orioles (74-76) have little more than math on their side. They are five games out of the second American League wild-card spot, with four teams between them and a playoff spot with just 12 games left.
"[When you] look on the board and you've got more errors than them, you don't like your chances, and you've got more walks than them," Orioles manager Showalter said after the win. "We were fortunate."
They helped their own cause Tuesday night while also denting the postseason hopes of their regional rivals in front of a mixed-allegiance crowd of 27,338 at Nationals Park. The Orioles ended the Nationals' three-game winning streak, keeping them 6½ games back of the National League East-leading New York Mets with 12 games remaining.
Jimenez won his third straight decision and earned his 100th career victory, becoming the 11th Dominican-born pitcher to reach the milestone. Despite issuing four walks over his first three innings, Jimenez (12-9) held the Nationals to one unearned run on three hits over six innings.
"It means a lot because it's not easy to come to the stadium and get a 'W' every five days," Jimenez said. "It doesn't matter how you look at it, it's not easy. You have to go through a lot of tough times, a lot of good times. … Once you get that number, you take a break and you look back and it seems like yesterday when I got to the big leagues. I already have eight years and 100 wins."
Jimenez, a career .115 hitter entering the night who spent his early years batting regularly in with the Colorado Rockies, helped his own cause by driving in the game's first run with a two-out RBI single in the second inning. Jimenez also had an RBI single in his last interleague start in an NL park on June 17 in Philadelphia.
"That was fun," Jimenez said. "You don't get to do that every day. Every time you have the chance to help the team out and get it going, it's really neat. It's really nice. You have to enjoy every hit you can."
Jimenez's single, which scored Caleb Joseph from second base, was the first of back-to-back two-out singles. Nolan Reimold followed Jimenez's hit with an RBI single of his own to score J.J. Hardy and give the Orioles an early 2-0 lead.
The Orioles scored two more runs in the fifth inning on back-to-back RBI doubles by Chris Davis and Steve Pearce, both off Nationals left-hander Gio Gonzalez (11-8), who allowed four runs over 4 2/3 innings, tied for his third-shortest start of the season.
Manny Machado started that rally with a one-out single -- the 500th hit of his career -- and then rounded the bases when Davis laced an opposite-field double into the left-field corner. Ian Desmond's relay throw home was on target, but Machado just beat catcher Jose Lobaton's sweep tag with a head-first slide into the plate.
Pearce followed with a double to left on a 2-2 pitch -- his fourth extra-base hit over his past four games -- scoring Davis easily from second to give the Orioles a 4-1 lead.
"I think we have a lot of things going our way," Machado said. "I think everyone's clicking, everyone's doing what they need to do, doing their job. I think that's what it takes to get to where we want to go. Everyone needs to chip in and be a part of it. If you need to drive in a runner, if you need to play defense, if you need to get an out. I think we all know what we need to be doing and that's what we're doing."
The Nationals' only run came in a mistake-plagued fourth inning that began with center fielder Junior Lake -- filling in for starter Adam Jones -- dropping a fly ball off the bat of Clint Robinson for a two-base error.
Desmond then put runners at the corners on an infield hit to third base. Second baseman Jonathan Schoop then made an over-the-shoulder catch on Michael Taylor's popup to shallow right, and sent a pinpoint throw home on the fly to prevent a run from scoring.
But Schoop then booted a ball at second, allowing Robinson to score from third for the Nationals' only run off Jimenez.
The Orioles defense helped Jimenez escape further damage that inning when Joseph jumped from behind the plate on Gonzalez's sacrifice bunt and started a 2-5-4 third-to-first double play with Schoop covering first. Gonzalez was initially called safe at first, but the call was overturned by replay review after manager Buck Showalter issued a challenge.
"It was huge," Showalter said of the double play.
Jimenez let four of the first seven batters he faced reach base, three by walks, but emerged unscathed.
He issued back-to-back one-out walks in the first inning, but struck out Jayson Werth looking on a full count and retired Robinson on a grounder to the mound.
Jimenez issued a leadoff walk to Desmond in the second inning, but one pitch later Joseph picked off Desmond, who initially broke for second. Jimenez then allowed a bunt single to Taylor, but struck out Lobaton and Gonzalez to end the inning.
"I think in the beginning of the game, I was walking a lot of guys from the windup," Jimenez said. "That was my trouble. It was the first guy I faced every inning. Once I got to the stretch, I was able to throw strikes and able to throw good pitches. After that, I was able to figure it out because my fastball was too short. I'm talking about getting to the plate, everything was down. I was bouncing everything -- the split and the fastball -- so I was able to throw a little bit up so it was able to be a strike."
After Brad Brach tossed two scoreless innings in relief of Jimenez, Darren O'Day pitched a scoreless ninth for his fourth save. It was the second time in five games that Showalter has gone to O'Day over closer Zach Britton in a save situation.
After the game, Showalter said Britton wasn't available to pitch. Britton said he was dealing with a sore left lat muscle and considers himself day-to-day. Britton said the injury first crept up during the team's last home series against Boston last week and popped up again this weekend in Tampa Bay.
"I tried to pitch through it a little bit," Britton said. "But we take credit in keeping our bullpen healthy and our starters healthy. They just felt like it was better right now to give it a few days, and Darren's capable of pitching the ninth. When you have that, it makes it a little easier for me to take my time. I want to be out there, but Darren can pick up the slack. He could be closing for a lot of teams."
The Nationals put the leadoff runner on first in the ninth when Pearce dropped Taylor's fly ball down the right-field line. But O'Day retired the next three hitters he faced to seal the win.
"It wasn't pretty but we did what good teams do; we found ways to overcome it," Pearce said. "We made mental errors, physical errors, but that's part of the game. We just have to look to improve tomorrow."
- Professional Baseball
- Baltimore Orioles
- Washington Nationals
- Ubaldo Jimenez
- Zach Britton
- Ian Desmond
- Gio Gonzalez
- Chris Davis
- Clint Robinson
- Michael Taylor
- Buck Showalter
- Jose Lobaton
- American League
- National League East
- Colorado Rockies
- New York Mets
- Gerardo Parra
- Jayson Werth
- Nolan Reimold