One day after Chris Tillman dropped Kansas City on a three-hit shutout, Danny Duffy and the Royals stuck back against the Baltimore Orioles with the same. It was not a complete game for Duffy, who had a perfect game going through the first 20 batters until Adam Jones drove a single through the middle of the infield. The lefty gave up only two hits through seven innings, and then the lock-down Royals bullpen finished off the shutout and 1-0 victory.
Baltimore Orioles starter Bud Norris was nearly as effective, going 7.1 innings and yielding only four hits. Two of those hits were in the first inning. Pesky right-fielder Nori Aoki opened the game with an infield single, stole second, and then scored on a solid liner through the middle by Billy Butler.
That was it for the scoring in this game. Though the Orioles would load the bases in the ninth inning, they were unable to break through.
The old adage that “good pitching stops good hitting” is one that carries a tremendous amount of truth. But here is another truth: If you want to be the best of the best, you’ve got to find a way to beat great pitching. The Baltimore Orioles don’t really do that with any regularity. A guy having a very good night can pretty much shut them down.
The Baltimore Orioles are a tough and scrappy bunch; they hang around and compete. Over this Buck Showalter era they have become more like the Yankees in the sense of being tough in the final inning and at least threatening to come back. But until they find success in beating the best pitching, I fear they will not progress beyond being a marginal contender.
In Sunday’s season finale with the Royals, the Orioles will send Ubaldo Jimenez to the mound to continue the recent run of good starting pitching. Just as advertised, Ubaldo had a lousy month of April with promises to turn it all around in May. Indeed. In this three starts this month, Jimenez has given up one run in 19.2 innings. Cutting down on the walks has done as much as anything to facilitate the turn-around. The stuff is fantastic, but pitch command is everything.
Jimenez will be making his 11th career start against the Royals. He is 4-3 against them with a 3.79 ERA. Typically for Ubaldo, he has given up a reasonable number of 58 hits in 57 innings, but again – 27 walks also.
Kansas City hitters have a very mixed bag of successes and struggles against Jimenez. Eric Hosmer is 9-for-23 with two homers, Billy Butler 7-for-25 with one home, and Lorenzo Cain 5-for-12 with a homer. But Alex Gordon is 6-for-26, Alcides Escobar 4-for-25, Salvador Perez 2-for-16, Omar Infante 2-for-16, and Mike Moustakas 4-for-26.
The Orioles will be facing their old familiar nemesis James Shields. The veteran is 5-3 this season with a 2.54 ERA. This will be his 10th start of the season and he already has seven quality starts. Only the Tigers have had any sort of decent game against him so far in 2014 … but lots of folks have had bad games against Detroit this year.
Over his career, Shields has pitched almost a full season worth of games against the Baltimore Orioles. In 25 starts over 169 innings, he is 10-7 with an ERA of 3.51.
With so many games in the AL East, there are some unusually large numbers to note of matchups between Shields and Orioles hitters. Nick Markakis is 20-for-68 (.294) with five doubles and two homers, and Adam Jones is 13-for-42 (.310) with five doubles and a homer. Beyond those high numbers, Chris Davis is 4-for-12 with two homers, Nelson Cruz 6-for-22 with a homer, and J.J. Hardy is 2-for-15.