The mystery that is Ubaldo Jimenez

It happened again last night.

Ubaldo Jimenez was good. I mean really good.


Like first half of 2015 good. Or even second half of 2013 good.

He allowed three runs in seven innings against the New York Yankees to help the Orioles win their first series since mid-August.

It kept their faint playoff hopes beating, if ever so softly.

But at this point in the year -- with 23 games remaining and the Orioles a Hail Mary from the postseason -- there are other things to focus on that seem more germane.

Like can Jimenez salvage this disappointing second half with a strong September?

On Wednesday, the Jimenez we saw answered the question in the affirmative. His sinker was on, his splitter was on. He gave up just four hits and two hurt him, a homer and a two-run single by Carlos Beltran. Otherwise, he was fantastic. He struck out eight, his most in a game since June 23. And he didn't walk anyone (but did hit one batter), the first time he didn't issue any free passes in a start since July 17.

If you think you're frustrated by Jimenez's inconsistency -- he can be great and he can be terrible from one start to the next -- think about how frustrated Jimenez is.

He knows there's tremendous ability in there if he can keep his herky-jerky mechanics from getting out of whack. He did that in the first half with a 2.81 ERA. He didn't do that consistently in his 10 post-break starts before Wednesday, compiling a 6.88 ERA.

But he said he believes things have clicked for him again.

"I feel like my mechanics are better. It's like how I was in the first half," he said. "I get on the mound and try to get people out. I'm not thinking about mechanics right now."

There will always be people who criticize Jimenez; after all, he signed a four-year, $50 million deal and had a rough 2014 (6-9, 4.81 ERA).

But consider this: Jimenez now leads the Orioles in wins with 11. His 4.22 ERA is second lowest among Orioles starters behind only Wei-Yin Chen. His 160 innings pitched is also second behind Chen. He leads the team in strikeouts with 146. He also leads in walks with 56, but that's down appreciably from last year (when he walked 77 in 125 1/3 innings) and he has walked fewer per nine innings than any other season in his career (3.2).

You can keep the jury out on Jimenez's 2015 season until it's officially over -- you never know which way it might go. But it's possible we all look up in October and a case can be made that Jimenez was arguably the best -- or second-best -- Orioles starter this year.

And that's a big jump from 2014.

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