When left-hander Bruce Zimmermann takes the mound, just about everything besides the batter he’s facing falls out of his mind. So he knew to take care of the day’s most important assignment well before he toed the rubber during the second game of Sunday’s doubleheader for the Orioles.
“I made sure to get [my mom] some flowers today,” Zimmermann said. “Sonly duties.”
Zimmermann, an Ellicott City native, then took care of his baseball duties. He once again shined at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, allowing two runs, five hits and no walks in six innings while striking out five. And he did it with his parents in the crowd, even if his attention during the game was solely on the strike zone.
The outing from Zimmermann laid the groundwork for Baltimore’s 4-2 win against the Kansas City Royals following a solid start from right-hander Jordan Lyles in the first game of the doubleheader, a 6-4 loss. Zimmermann continued his dominance at Camden Yards, bringing his season total at the ballpark to four earned runs in 20 innings.
This is the ballpark he visited so often growing up. He started the home opener here to begin this season, doing so in front of family and friends. It’s where he feels comfortable, and that comfort level is clear each time he jogs out to the hill.
And while his mom, Marcie, didn’t get to spend Mother’s Day talking with her son, she spent part of it watching him pitch, a pastime that’s been a near-constant throughout the 27-year-old’s life.
“They left after I came out,” Zimmermann said of his parents. “Being one of five, you can only pick and choose one child so many times. She wanted to go see a bunch of the other grandkids and stuff, but she did stay for my innings.”
Those innings were strong, with blips in the second and sixth innings the only blemishes. Zimmermann allowed one run in the second on a sacrifice fly, saddled with a leadoff triple from Hunter Dozier because right fielder Tyler Nevin misjudged his route and came up empty on a leap at the wall.
And besides Dozier’s RBI single in the sixth, Zimmermann mainly cruised. His four-seam fastball resulted in 13 called strikes or whiffs, joining his changeup to create an imposing one-two punch. Zimmermann threw a season-high 85 pitches, giving the kind of length that can help a bullpen preparing to play three games in 24 hours. It’s a step in the right direction, too, as the Orioles hope to stretch Zimmermann out.
“If he finished that sixth cleanly, he was going to go back out for the seventh,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “I’m going to obviously see how the game is being played and seeing how he’s doing, but I’d like for him do go deep.”
Zimmermann received immediate offensive support, with the Orioles plating three runs in the first inning. Singles from center fielder Cedric Mullins and designated hitter Trey Mancini set the stage before left fielder Austin Hays walked. The three of them scored, with a passed ball, Ryan Mountcastle single and Ramón Urías sacrifice fly doing the damage.
Earlier in the day, facing a similar situation, the Orioles fell flat. But in the nightcap of Sunday’s doubleheader, that first-inning breakthrough was enough to get Baltimore through to a twin-bill split. While Nevin’s misplay in the second helped the Royals get on the board, his RBI single in the fifth made up for it, plating Urías and creating enough of a cushion for the bullpen to close the game.
But for all the strong deliveries from pitchers Sunday, perhaps none were more clutch than the flowers Zimmermann ensured his mom received, a special commendation while he was busy playing baseball — as he so often is.
Have a week, Hays
The line drive right at the left fielder in the fifth inning of Sunday’s second game was just a momentary interruption in what was otherwise an on-base clinic from Hays. Even the dribbler he hit back to right-hander Dylan Coleman went in Hays’ favor, with an off-line throw helping Hays reach base for the eighth time in nine attempts Sunday.
“When he swings at strikes, like I’ve said a lot, he hits the ball hard,” Hyde said. “And right now he’s a little more patient, he’s getting in good counts, he’s taking some walks.”
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Across his week, Hays finished 10-for-21, including a home run that mounted the expanded left field wall and a throw from left that nabbed the Minnesota Twins’ Max Kepler at the plate on Thursday.
Hays has been Baltimore’s most consistent batter, and he hit a hot streak in New York against the Yankees on April 28, slugging three doubles. Since then, he’s recorded 17 hits in 39 at-bats. If there’s a sign the Orioles’ offense is finding any rhythm, it comes when studying Hays.
“When Austin doesn’t try to do too much, he’s extremely dangerous, because he hits the ball so hard, he’s got so much power to both sides of the field,” Hyde said. “That’s what I see, just a little bit more in control in the batter’s box right now.”
Monday, 12:05 p.m.
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