Orioles starter Ubaldo Jimenez lived on the edge Wednesday night, leaving runners at second and third in his first two innings and ultimately seeing nine batters get on base in five tiresome frames.
He conceded it was a "battle from the first pitch," and then pinpointed the knife-edge he sat on all game long.
"I was able to get ahead of the hitters, but I found a way to make him go to first base," Jimenez said. "It hurts. It really hurts. You work hard every day to get on the mound and try to get ahead on the hitters, and when you walk a guy after being ahead, it hurts."
Such starts from Jimenez — two earned runs in five eventful innings — and such responses from him have become all too familiar to the Orioles and their fans over the past two seasons. This one actually seems to illustrate better than most how close he was.
Just as Jimenez said, it turned on two-strike pitching. He got 15 of the 23 hitters he faced into two-strike counts, and struck out just six. Two more hit into outs, while four walked, two more singled and Josh Donaldson homered.
Overall, 10 batters reached full counts. It was all too much to overcome, even if manager Buck Showalter thought Jimenez deserved better.
"It was frustrating because Ubaldo had pretty good stuff and was 0-2 on a lot of hitters and let them get back in the count," he said. "And you end up getting hurt with that. Two runs, five innings — there was stuff there to pitch a lot deeper in that game though. That was frustrating for him."
"I think it was probably too much good [stuff]," Jimenez said. "They were moving everywhere. It was moving a lot. I felt like I was close on some, but not close enough. They were moving too much."
Two-strike pitching hasn't typically been an issue for Jimenez. Over the course of his career (before Wednesday), opponents have hit .161 with two strikes against him, and have walked in 11.8 percent of career two-strike at-bats versus Jimenez. The walks were what hurt him Wednesday, as he issued walks in 26.7 percent of his two-strike counts.
Many of the pitches he missed were low, a result of what catcher Caleb Joseph said was a plan developed after facing Toronto so many times and having Jimenez find success with his sinker.
"The sinker was moving a lot today," Joseph said. "In video sessions I've watched against the Blue Jays with him, when he's really able to dial that sinker down and away, really, really effective. Just didn't have that go-to today sinker. It was there at times."
Still, Jimenez's actual stats aren't awful this season. His ERA dropped a few points down to 3.71 from 3.75, and he has struck out 20 batters in 17 innings, though he leads all Orioles with eight walks.