The results didn't show it, but Orioles right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez felt as strong physically in his most recent outing as he's felt in a long while.

On Friday night against the Houston Astros, Jimenez's fastball velocity spiked, with both his two-seam and four-seamer reaching around 94 mph. He felt his mechanics were strong, something that's in doubt every outing because of his unconventional delivery.


But still, the Astros hit Jimenez around for six runs — five in the first two innings — in an 8-7 loss at Camden Yards. He was booed as he walked off the mound at Oriole Park.

"I don't even pay attention to it," Jimenez said. "The only thing I try to think about is trying to improve and get better for my next one."

He's been down this road before, and he's usually been able to recover for at least a start or two, and the Orioles need him to right the ship in this afternoon's series finale against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field.

Jimenez has a 7.93 ERA in seven starts since rejoining the starting rotation, and as he continues to struggle the grumbles grow louder to boot him again. Unlike the last time he was removed from the rotation — when right-hander Alec Asher was knocking on the door — there's no clear successor for his rotation spot.

He's allowed six runs in back-to-back starts, but unlike his 3 2/3-inning outing against the Chicago Cubs two weekends ago, he was snakebitten early and sent his teammates into an early deficit.

Jimenez dominated early, striking out two of the first three hitters he faced, but good situations can quickly go south for him, and he tested the extremes in the first inning.

A two-out single through the right side scored one run, then Yuli Gurriel's two-run homer that followed — a ball that would have been a hit just 39 percent of the time, according to baseballsavant.com – put Jimenez in a 3-0 hole.

He allowed two more runs in the second inning, then righted himself. The Orioles rallied late and lost by a run.

Left-hander Wade Miley allowed five runs in the second inning, including a three-run homer to shortstop Tim Beckham, in the Orioles' 5-4 loss to the Rays.

In Jimenez's most recent start at the Trop, he allowed nine runs and lasted just 2 1/3 innings on 13 base runners (nine hits and four walks). But he rebounded from that start with one of his best of the season, pitching eight innings of shutout ball in Toronto six days later.

There's no predicting which Jimenez will emerge today, but the Orioles need a strong start from him to salvage the series.

"Of course I want to win," Jimenez said. "I want to compete I want to be there for the team.  I think that's enough pressure. I try not to think about that. I just try to go out there and make some adjustment and hopefully be better."

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