The Baltimore Orioles fell to the Detroit Tigers on Wednesday night, 5-4. (Ulysses Muñoz / Baltimore Sun)
The Orioles might have needed more from beleaguered right-hander Ubaldo Jiménez than they got, but at this point in their four-year relationship with him, they couldn't have expected much else.
He left trailing the Detroit Tigers 5-4, and that's the way it ended before an announced 29,722 at Comerica Park, thanks to a three-run home run allowed to struggling Detroit Tigers center fielder Tyler Collins in the fifth inning to cede the lead back to the hosts.
As ever, manager Buck Showalter said it was "just command" that did Jiménez in.
"You see a lot of counts out of his favor, and when he did get ahead, he made some mistakes," Showalter said. "He got behind the center fielder and gave up a long home run, then got ahead and threw a pitch in the middle of the plate. It was an off-speed pitch. ... He's capable of better."
Collins didn't have a hit in his past 30 at-bats before Jiménez left a pair of splitters over the plate to him and watched each leave Comerica Park for a home run.
Collins' big swings represented the first and last damage done off Jiménez in the day, but the Tigers threatened more pretty much all night. Second baseman Ian Kinsler led off the first inning with a single, only to be erased trying to steal. Then Jiménez walked two straight batters and needed 28 pitches to get out of the inning.
The second inning, when Collins hit his first homer of the night and when Kinsler had an RBI single, put the Orioles behind 2-1 after Jiménez volleyed the lead back to the Tigers. Both the second and third innings required 20 pitches apiece, though there was no consequence for the one-out double or subsequent walk he issued in the third.
An eight-pitch fourth inning was a welcome respite that could have settled his day around and gotten him deep into the game after the Orioles needed eight innings of relief Tuesday.
"In the fourth inning, I was able to get back on track," Jiménez said. "In the first couple innings it was tough to find a good rhythm."
But right fielder J.D. Martinez singled against the shift to open the inning, first baseman Alex Avila pushed him to third on a two-out double, then both scored on Collins' homer.
Jiménez ultimately allowed five earned runs on eight hits with three walks and five strikeouts, bringing his ERA to 6.52.
Catcher Welington Castillo said his problems were that his off-speed pitches weren't working early, so they had to adjust on the fly.
"We were using a lot of fastball, [later]," Castillo said. "Early in the game, a lot of off-speed, and it looked like there wasn't the off-speed. Anything off-speed that he'd throw, they were on it. We tried to change that and then attack more with the fastball in and out. I think that's why he got through five innings or whatever he threw. Just a couple mistakes. Two hanging changeups to Collins, and the split, too. I think that cost the game."
Said Jiménez: "Both of the pitches he hit were split-fingers. They were just hanging there."
Almost all the Orioles' early offense came from the bottom half of their batting order, an occurrence that's becoming a more frequent one than anyone had expected given the sluggers in the top half.
In the second inning, second baseman Jonathan Schoop, Castillo and left fielder Trey Mancini each singled with one out, and the Orioles scratched across a run on a fielder's choice by shortstop J.J. Hardy, who drove in his 13th run of the season and fourth of the series.
When their turn next came around, it was more production. With designated hitter Mark Trumbo standing on first base after an error that led off the fourth inning, Schoop doubled to left field and Castillo singled to tie the game at two. A sacrifice fly by Mancini made it 3-2.
The Orioles' fourth run came when the heart of their order, first baseman Chris Davis and Trumbo, hit back-to-back doubles in the fifth inning.
That crew almost started a ninth-inning rally, too. Mancini singled to open the ninth, and was at third base with two outs when first base umpire C.B. Bucknor rang up Manny Machado on a questionable check-swing strikeout to end the game.
"I just looked at it," Showalter said. "He didn't go. Just one of those things that's kind of emotional with the crowd and everything. Just kind of gave in."
Debut for Castro
After Stefan Crichton and Richard Bleier pieced together two strong innings of relief, the Orioles got their first look at Miguel Castro, the 22-year-old reliever they acquired last month from the Colorado Rockies.
Castro retired all three batters he faced and stranded a runner of Bleier’s in scoring position, though it took him to 12 pitches to strike out Jose Iglesias and 10 pitches to retire Kinsler for a scoreless eighth.
He lived up to his reputation of having a live arm, with his fastball averaging 95 mph and topping out at 96.
Castillo carries on
Castillo, who returned from the disabled list Tuesday, made it six hits in his first nine at-bats since his return with a sixth-inning single.
He was hitting a team-best .314 when he went on the shelf, and the team’s catching crew carried on well behind and at the plate without him. Castillo’s consistency is distinguishing him, though.