For a team whose fortunes appear to rest on how the rotation performs, having three pitchers' respective seasons hinge on a single day seems like a dangerous way to do business.
Yet there the Orioles were on June 2, a date that for the ensuing four months could be a fulcrum in the seasons of starters Mike Wright, Yovani Gallardo, and Ubaldo Jimenez.
Wright was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk before Thursday's game with the Boston Red Sox. Gallardo made his first start in his rehabilitation from shoulder soreness in High-A Frederick. And in the main event, Jimenez tried to rebound from a May that eroded almost all of the confidence in his being a viable starting pitcher.
To executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette, there was a theme to what could be a pivotal day.
"It's all about stabilizing your team. And to stabilize your team, we need consistent starting pitching," Duquette said. "Gallardo and Jimenez have done that over their career. Mike Wright has shown flashes. That's what he's trying to do, show he can be a consistent, dependable pitcher. Ubaldo's trying to show that he can be a consistent pitcher again."
For five innings Thursday, it looked like the aspect of this day that had the greatest immediate impact was going the Orioles' way.
So many of the traits that dragged Jimenez to a 6.36 ERA, four straight disappointing starts in May and the brink of losing his job were absent: the poor pace, the lack of command in the strike zone, the walks. He found a rhythm early, stayed in it, and until the sixth inning kept Boston off-balance.
Jimenez didn't allow a hit until the fifth inning, and issued one walk to that point.
In the sixth, however, Boston erased a 4-0 Orioles lead with a two-run double by shortstop Xander Bogaerts and a three-run homer by designated hitter David Ortiz. He allowed five runs on six hits and a pair of walks, his ERA climbing to 6.59 on the season. Only two of the 105 pitchers who qualify for the ERA title are worse this year.
"Statistics tell you that's it all the end game, but we've seen him when he's really good and dotting the outer half and spinning the ball," Showalter said. "He had a good split tonight, too, early on. … Ubaldo gave us five strong innings, and then it got away from us, and our guys figured out a way to win the ballgame. I know that's a topic of discussion, I understand from what you all tell me, and rightfully so."