Written by Bruce Smith (VaTech1994)
By Bruce Smith (VaTech1994)
The Baltimore Orioles were beaten by the Kansas City Royals 5-0 in the first game of a three game series. The Orioles played thirteen of their first twenty-one games this year on the road and every game this year has been against either the AL East or the Detroit Tigers so the 11-10 record coming into the night should be considered a good start.
Tonight’s game at home against the Royals should have been an easier task than what the Orioles had faced thus far, but so much of baseball comes down to the performance of the starting pitchers. That was the problem as the Orioles’ starter, Ubaldo Jimenez, continued his early season inability to command his pitches and the Royals’ starter, Yordano Ventura, put on a display. The game was delayed by rain to start which led to a very sparse crowd. Billy Butler’s double in the ninth inning was the only extra base hit in what was a pretty quiet game basically devoid of drama.
The loss left the Orioles at 11-11 for the season. They continue to be in 2nd place in a tightly packed division.
Ubaldo Jimenez got the start for the Orioles. Jimenez has well above average stuff, but his command is abysmal so far this season. He throws a 4 seam fastball, 2 seam fastball, slider, curve, and splitter. It isn’t unusual for all of these pitch types to miss high, low, left, or right of the intended location through Jimenez’s first five starts as an Oriole.
All of his offerings except the four seam fastball move sharply in different directions which probably makes it difficult for the hitter to square him up, but I’m sure it also contributes to the command problems. Combine this movement with a very complicated motion and I would bet Jimenez is going to be a feast or famine type pitcher for the Orioles as he was for his prior teams.
Jimenez’s final line was 6.0 IP, 6 hits, 4 R, 4 ER, 4 BB, 3 K, and the loss. He also faced three batters in the seventh inning without recording an out. The Royals didn’t hit Jimenez hard, but walks continued to plague him. The Royals scored in the first and seventh after a walk got them started in both innings.
TJ McFarland relieved Jimenez. He gave up a first pitch single to the first batter he faced which drove in the fourth run of the game, but pitched well other than that. A bunt, hit-and-run single on a routine grounder through the vacated hole, and a two out double led to a 9th inning run. McFarland pitched 3.0 innings giving up 5 hits, 1 run, 0 walks, and 1 strike out.
The Orioles faced 22 year old Yordano Ventura tonight. Ventura is neither tall nor muscular, but he certainly has lightning in his right arm. He throws 95-99 mph with a nasty curveball and a changeup that has a lot of deception and arm side fade. It is clear that he can have command problems but he was able to maintain command tonight despite the occasional pitch that got away. He was able to throw all three pitches for strikes which made it very difficult to eliminate any of his offerings. Ventura is very early in his career and there are warning signs of arm problems ahead in his delivery, but his raw ability is as good as anyone in the league from what I saw tonight
Wieters, Markakis, and Hardy all had good nights. They squared balls up to get two hits each along with the Orioles only two walks. The rest of the lineup was basically overpowered by Ventura’s arsenal.
Matt Wieters continues to rake pretty much everything. His approach from the left side of the plate has completely changed from 2013 to 2014. His body has less lateral movement. His eye level is much more consistent throughout his swing. The most dramatic change is how much lower and looser he is holding his hands pre-pitch and during his load. The changes have led to a more direct path to the ball which has created consistently solid contact so far this season.
Jonathan Schoop made a couple nice plays tonight at two different positions. He has great range and a strong arm, but does continue to have occasional problems controlling his throws.
Matt Wieters had an error charged to him when his thrown bounced past JJ Hardy into centerfield on a steal attempt in the 2nd inning.
Key Moments In The Game
The game didn’t have a lot of drama. The Orioles had runners on 1st and 2nd base in the 2nd and 4th inning, but the bottom of the order, especially David Lough, were basically overwhelmed by the raw stuff displayed by Ventura. The Royals scored in the first inning and the Orioles never really mounted much of a challenge due to the excellent game pitched by Ventura.
Chris Davis left the game with an oblique strain. He is listed as day-to-day, but then again aren’t we all?
The game started late due to a 55 minute rain delay.
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