BOSTON — For any pitcher, joining a list that includes Jim Palmer, Mike Mussina and Don Larsen should be a matter of pride. Two of them are Hall of Famers, and the third pitched a perfect game in the World Series. As pitching royalty goes, those three are about as regal as it gets.
And yet, for left-hander Bruce Zimmermann, joining a list with those three during Sunday afternoon’s game against the Red Sox would engender the opposite of pride. The Orioles starter watched five home runs leave the bats of Boston hitters, turning to see them sail out of Fenway Park over and over.
Zimmermann became the fifth pitcher in franchise history to allow five long balls in an outing, joining Palmer (1977), Mussina (1994), Larsen (1954) and Jeremy Hellickson (2017). He’s among good company for the wrong reason, and it led to the worst start of his season, a career-high in runs allowed and a continuation of a theme.
Across his last 10 1/3 innings — coming in starts against the Yankees and Red Sox, two of the top hitting clubs in the league — Zimmermann has allowed nine homers. They came in bunches Sunday, with two in the second, one in the third and two more in the fourth.
Those blasts carried Boston to a 12-2 victory, setting up a rubber match Monday to conclude the five-game, four-day series.
“They were just on everything he threw,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “We’ve just got to flush this one and try to win a series tomorrow.”
But beyond the singular result, those homers continued a worrisome spell for Zimmermann. The 27-year-old Loyola Blakefield product began the season allowing one home run in 31 1/3 innings. Then came two against Detroit, beginning a string of four straight starts with at least one ball leaving the yard.
Over those last four starts, Zimmermann has allowed 12 homers. Zimmermann gave up just 14 across 64 1/3 innings in 2021. Part of it is placement, leaving a changeup to Bobby Dalbec over the heart of the plate for the first two-run homer. Franchy Cordero followed with a 448-foot bomb to center off a slider. The home runs from Rafael Devers, Christian Arroyo and Kiké Hernández all came off middle-middle mistakes, be it Zimmermann’s four-seam fastball, changeup or sinker.
“The pitches that they got, those were the bad ones,” Zimmermann said. “The rest of the time, the other at-bats, I thought I was putting together pretty good sequencing.”
The bullpen effort behind Zimmermann did little to stench the flow of runs, and the Orioles (20-29) offense provided just a whisper of support, coming on Trey Mancini’s RBI single in the fifth.
But for all intents and purposes, the game was over when those long balls began flying off Zimmermann with neck-straining frequency.
“We’re having this string of playing these teams that are just offensively dangerous,” Zimmermann said. “I’ve just got to do a better job of getting deeper into games, getting back to having quicker innings and having more ground balls.”
A long-awaited debut
There were moments Cody Sedlock wondered whether he’d ever be here, standing atop the rubber at Fenway Park, pitching for a major league team. He was Baltimore’s first-round pick in the 2016 draft, but his development was immediately derailed through a series of injuries.
First there was a strained flexor mass in his elbow that forced him to miss much of his 2017 season. Then he dealt with Thoracic outlet syndrome during 2018, another hindrance on his path here. But on Saturday, he stood inside the visitors clubhouse at Fenway Park, and on Sunday, he stood on the mound, with his family in the stands to witness his major league debut.
“It just goes back to all those times in 2017, 2018 when I didn’t know if I was gonna keep playing,” Sedlock said. “I’m so grateful to be at this point. I’m very, very proud of everything. It’s a surreal moment.”
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His outing Sunday began well, as he allowed one run in his first three innings before it unraveled in the eighth. He wound up giving up five runs across his three-plus frames, although his 71 pitches were vital for the long-term health of Baltimore’s bullpen, allowing other arms a rest after a doubleheader Saturday.
“I kind of ran out of gas there at the end,” Sedlock said. “I’m obviously not happy about that. I know I can be better than that — I will be better than that.”
But no matter the final result, Sedlock can say he made it, after all this time.
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