NEW YORK — Orioles right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez will take the mound Wednesday night as the Orioles finish their brief, two-game series against the New York Mets at Citi Field.
With all the injuries and other obstacles the Orioles have faced in the season's first month, the sparkling performance of Jimenez has been one of the team's pleasant surprises.
After struggling with command last season, Jimenez goes into Wednesday's start with a 2-1 record and 1.59 ERA in four starts this season.
He has not allowed an earned run in three of his four starts, including his outing in last Wednesday's home game that was closed to the public. Jimenez allowed two unearned runs on three hits over seven innings, struck out six and walked one in an 8-2 win over the Chicago White Sox.
"Even before I get to the mound, I'm really confident right now that I can execute my pitches and get people out because when I get on the mound I'm not thinking about mechanics or anything like that or about my health," Jimenez said. "I'm only thinking about getting outs."
Jimenez's ability to command his fastball has been key. His walks-per-nine-innings (3.2) are much lower than last season (5.5) and his career average (4.2). Pitching ahead in the count has allowed Jimenez to utilize more of his pitches. His strikeout-to-walk ratio this season (2.75) is much better than last season's (1.51) and his career average (1.99), and is even better than his strong 2013 season with the Indians (2.43).
Jimenez said he feels more confident than he ever has with the Orioles. He likens it to the way he felt in the second half of the 2013 season with Cleveland, when he posted a 1.82 ERA in 13 starts after the All-Star break.
"After the first half [in 2013], I felt really good," Jimenez said. "I felt like every time I took the mound I was going to give the team a chance to win."
Pitching in a National League park, Jimenez will bat tonight. He spent six seasons pitching in the NL with the Colorado Rockies and is a career .113 hitter. Jimenez took batting practice before one of the Orioles' games in St. Petersburg, Fla., last weekend, but that doesn't mean he's looking forward to hitting.
"I do it just because I have to, but I really don't enjoy it, especially since it's been a long time since I've been at home plate," Jimenez said with a smile. "Hopefully I get a runner on base so I don't have to swing and I can just bunt."
Jimenez is removed enough from the NL that he hasn't pitched against very many Mets players.
Mets outfielder Curtis Granderson, who spent most of his career in the American League with the Detroit Tigers and New York Yankees, is just 2-for-11 against Jimenez. Outfielder Michael Cuddyer is hitless in eight career at-bats against Jimenez.
The Orioles will face reigning NL Rookie of the Year Jacob deGrom Wednesday night. He's coming off a couple of rocky outings, having allowed 11 runs – nine earned – over his past two starts over a span of 10 1/3 innings.
Travis Snider, who played for Pittsburgh Piraters before coming to the Orioles in an offseason trade, is the only Orioles player to have faced deGrom. Snider is 0-for-3 against him.
Orioles first baseman Chris Davis hit another opposite-field home run on Tuesday night, a rocket line drive over the left-field fence.
It's always been seen as a good sign when Davis is able to hit with power the other way, taking the ball over the outer half of the plate and driving it to left field. He did it a lot in 2013 during his 53-homer season.
And Davis' home run in the ninth inning Tuesday off Mets closer Jeurys Familia, on which Davis turned around a 96-mph sinker, is the third of his six homers this season he has hit to the opposite field.
In 2013, Davis hit 17 of his 53 homers to the opposite field.
Through 23 games this season, Davis is hitting .274 with a .344 on-base percentage, .548 slugging percentage, six homers and 18 RBIs. At this time last year, he was hitting .263/.378/.400 with just two homers and 13 RBIs.