Orioles right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez certainly deserved a win Friday night against the Chicago White Sox. And more often than not, holding an opponent to one run over seven innings will get a victory.
"He didn't have his great stuff, but he really battled there and gave us a chance to win," catcher Caleb Joseph said of Jimenez. "Too bad we couldn't scratch a couple runs across for him."
The Orioles were one or two clutch hits away from breaking through for Jimenez in their 1-0 loss to the lowly White Sox. But Chicago left-hander John Danks utilized his slow 75-mph curveball to keep the Orioles off balance. All five of Danks' strikeouts Friday came on curveballs and Danks' slow breaking ball made his low 90s fastball seem like 95 mph.
It was as frustrating for the Orioles as it was for fans to watch. They knew what was coming, but they couldn't figure it out.
As for Jimenez, he can look back on his first half – Saturday's game will be the Orioles' 81st of the season – and be satisfied. After throwing seven innings of one-run ball on Friday, Jimenez lowered his season ERA to 2.96.
This time last season, Jimenez had a 4.52 ERA and was 4-7. He's 7-4 this season.
Jimenez's strikeouts per nine innings (8.9 to 8.3) are up over last season, his walks per nine innings are down (2.8 to 5.5) and his strikeout-to-walk ratio is better (3.20 to 1.51).
-- Adam Jones went hitless in three at bats against Danks on Friday and is now 1-for-33 against Danks in his career. That's a .030 batting average, Jones' lowest against any pitcher he's recorded at least 25 at bats against.
Rounding out the five pitchers Jones has struggled the most against: Toronto's R.A. Dickey (3-for-25, .120 average), Minnesota's Phil Hughes (8-for-51, .157), Kansas City's Jason Vargas (5-for-28, .179) and Detroit's Justin Verlander (7-for-36, .194).
-- One would think that right-hander Kevin Gausman is officially told Saturday that he has earned another start. He said before Friday's game that he was heading into Saturday's work day not really knowing how he will be used next.
But all signs still point to Gausman taking Bud Norris' spot in the Orioles rotation. Norris was in the bullpen again Friday night.
Gausman is taking it all in stride. He has become used to having to the uncertainty.
"I've done everything in my career," Gausman said. "I've been a starter, a reliever. I've been in the rotation. I've pitched out of the bullpen in the playoffs. I feel like I'm pretty comfortable in any situation and I know what I need and what I don't need. If they tell me in a couple days, hey, we need you to pitch out of the bullpen, I know to take it easy in my bullpen tomorrow. Pretty much a touch and feel. It's one of those things where the more you're around, you kind of learn what works for you and what doesn't.
"[I've been] spending more time around these guys and having conversations with guys who have gone through it, too. One guy I talk to about it a lot is Tommy [Hunter]. He went through it when he was with Texas, going up and down, things like that. You can't control any of that. The only thing you can control is what you do when you're on the mound."
-- As for Norris, he has made just three career relief appearances in 169 major league outings.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter used Norris twice in relief in 2013, both times when the team was deep in extra-inning games. He was the losing pitcher in both games, a 14-inning loss in Arizona on Aug. 14 and an 18-inning loss at Tampa Bay on Sept. 20. The educated Orioles fan remembers both of those defeats as very tough losses. The Orioles struggled to rebound from getting swept in Arizona in August and their postseason aspirations died in St. Petersburg, Fla., in late September.
Just because Norris is sent to the 'pen, it doesn't mean better days aren't ahead for him. Jimenez used being sent to the bullpen last season as an opportunity to work on his mechanics and his turnaround can be traced back to working out of the bullpen.