The first game of the three-game series between the first-place Orioles and the American League West-leading Seattle Mariners turned out to be anything but a classic showdown.
The Mariners took full advantage of the inconsistency that has dogged Ubaldo Jimenez throughout his Orioles career and hammered out a 10-0 victory before a crowd of 14,477 at Oriole Park.
Former Orioles slugger Nelson Cruz always enjoyed hitting at Camden Yards and he apparently does not intend to stop. He drove in five runs with three run-scoring hits, including a two-run single that started the double-digit barrage and a two-run home run off reliever Brian Matusz that gave the M's that double-digit lead in the sixth inning.
Jimenez allowed those two runs in the first inning and a bunch more in the fifth while M's starting pitcher Wade Miley held the Orioles hitless for the first four innings on the way to his fourth victory in six 2016 decisions.
"I think after the first inning I was able to settle down," said Jimenez, who allowed six earned runs over 4 1/3 innings and is now 2-4 with a 5.60 ERA in eight starts. "But in the fifth inning they were able to find the holes. Two of the three hits they got, I thought I made good pitches like the one to [Norichika] Aoki and the one to [Robinson] Cano, they just found a hole."
Manager Buck Showalter said it was just as tale of two starting pitchers – one who had inconsistent command and Miley, who allowed just two hits and three walks over six shutout innings.
"We knew he [Miley] was coming off a good start," Showalter said. "I tell you what he did. He really commanded the inner half with the fastball. It opened up the whole plate for him. You could tell coming into the game that was the approach they were trying to take. A lot of people come in that way but they can't get the ball there. He consistently got the ball in and made everything else work for him."
Matt Wieters finally broke through with a single to lead off the bottom of the fifth, but that didn't change anything. Matusz had already given up a three-run homer to third baseman Kyle Seager – the first batter he faced after replacing Jimenez in the top of the inning -- to turn the game into a blowout.
Jimenez could not seem to get off the mound in the first. He walked two batters, gave up a double and a two-run single and also threw a wild pitch in a torturous 34-pitch half inning. Then Miley needed 30 pitches to get out of the bottom of the first. He also walked two, but did get back to the dugout without surrendering a run. It looked like everyone was in for a very long evening, but both pitchers came back in the second inning and looked like totally different guys, needing just 17 pitches between them to get six outs.
Jimenez had allowed four straight batters to reach base in that rocky first inning before fill-in pitching coach Scott McGregor went to the mound for a chat. When he left, Jimenez struck out the final two batters of the inning and went on to retire seven batters in a row. Whatever it was that McGregor said to Jimenez ought to be on a poster hung in his locker. It was only a quick fix, however, and Jimenez let things unravel again in the fifth inning.
Miley, however, settled in nicely and still had not allowed a hit when the Mariners erupted for five runs in that fifth inning. He retired 10 straight batters after walking Chris Davis with two outs in the first.