The Orioles found themselves on the wrong end of another early-inning meltdown by Ubaldo Jimenez on Monday night, but everything turned out all right again.
Somehow, Jimenez has managed to remain undefeated through four starts, even though he has only pitched well in one of them.
Of course, he’s not exactly 4-0, but the Orioles have still won all his starts after pounding three home runs off Tampa Bay ace Chris Archer on the way to a soggy 6-3 comeback victory over the Rays before an announced 11,142 at Camden Yards.
“That’s one of our best wins this year,’’ manager Buck Showalter said. “Talking to the team before the game, you know the tough series over the weekend, you come in tonight and you know it’s going to be cold and nasty and a lot of people probably will look at the weather and not come and you’re going to really be ready to play, and our guys were. I was really proud of them tonight. Tough game to win and our guys figured out a way.”
The Rays jumped out to an instant lead when leadoff man Corey Dickerson homered in the first inning. After the Orioles tied the game in the third, Tampa Bay increased its lead to two runs when Jimenez spun out of control in the fourth and bunched four walks around a two-run double by outfielder Shane Peterson.
To that point, Archer was very much in control. He allowed just one run on two hits through five innings and got the first two outs in the sixth before the Orioles started to flex their muscle. Hyun Soo Kim, who was making only his sixth start of the season, drove a towering fly ball over the center-field fence for his first home run. Jonathan Schoop followed moments later with his fifth homer of the year to tie the game.
The decisive swing came from Adam Jones, who had three hits in the game and delivered his 1,500th career hit in his previous at-bat. He scalded a two-run shot into the left-field bleachers in the seventh inning — his fourth homer of the season.
After a night of wind, rain and a deep chill, Showalter marveled after the game at the way Jones seems to be the same player no matter what the conditions.
“The rule of thumb in the big leagues is that it’s 75 degrees and sunny every day,’’ Jones said. “I heard that when I was a rookie coming up with Seattle and I try to tell other people that. It’s the big leagues and it’s 75 degrees and sunny when it’s really raining and 30. You’ve got to trick yourself into playing. … It’s mind over matter.”
Jimenez (1-0, 5.95 ERA) was long gone by then. He lasted just 3 1/3 innings in a disappointing follow-up to his terrific performance Wednesday night in Cincinnati.
The chance to win this game was preserved by long reliever Vidal Nuno, who came on to keep the game close in the fourth by striking Dickerson and Kevin Kiermaier with the bases loaded.
Nuno was followed by Mychal Givens, Donnie Hart and fill-in closer Brad Brach in another airtight performance by the Orioles bullpen, which has allowed just two runs over its past 23 innings.
The rain started under threat of rain and it fell sporadically throughout the evening, but was not intense enough to interrupt the game until a quick cloudburst brought out the tarp in the bottom of the eighth inning.
Chalk talk: Sometimes, it’s a game of millimeters. Shane Peterson’s bases-loaded double down the right-field line in the fourth inning Monday night was ruled fair by first base umpire James Hoye, but it left a divot on the foul side of the chalk line and prompted an unsuccessful challenge by Orioles manager Buck Showalter.
The call was upheld because there was no camera angle close enough to give any indication one way or the other whether the ball kicked up any chalk, and Hoye was in the best position to make the call.
Still, the play and the outcome of the challenge illustrated the legitimate questions some managers raised during spring training about the newly altered replay system, which requires managers to decide whether to challenge within 30 seconds. The camera angles replayed on the MASN feed were insufficient to judge the play, but the outcome was so important to the game that Showalter had no choice but to challenge before he could have known that. As a result, he used up his manager’s challenge very early in the game.
Can’t imagine that’s what baseball owners had in mind when they added the replay clock for this season. For that matter, it’s hard to understand why every stadium does not have clear camera views of both foul lines. Kind of a big deal.
His total includes 1,468 as an Oriole, ranking him ninth on the club’s all-time list. He had 32 hits during brief stays in the majors with the Seattle Mariners in 2006 and 2007 at the start of his big league career.
Back-to-back attack: When Kim and Schoop hit back-to-back home runs off Archer in the sixth inning, it was the third time this season the Orioles have hit consecutive home runs.
Schoop has been involved each time, teaming up with Trey Mancini on April 12 at Fenway Park and again against the Red Sox here on Saturday night.
Nuno holds the line: Left-hander Nuno pitched 2 2/3 scoreless innings in his sixth appearance as an Oriole and lowered his ERA to 3.12.