Apr 17, 2015; Boston, MA, USA; Baltimore Orioles manager Buck Showalter (26) argues with home plate umpire Jordan Baker after starting pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez (not pictured) was ejected for throwing at a batter during the fourth inning against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
I guess that Baltimore Orioles starting pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez has been so good at the end of spring training and in his first game that his reputation has suddenly changed to being a pinpoint placement pitcher. So, if he comes up and in on a batter, clearly such a highly-refined command pitcher must be intentionally throwing at the hitter! Apparently that is the view of home plate umpire Jordan Baker, as he threw Jimenez out of the game after hitting Pablo Sandoval in the fourth inning Friday night in Boston.
As an older writer who is in his sixth decade of watching thousands of baseball games, I have often about how horrible is the current state of umpiring in MLB. Replays two and three decades ago seldom revealed the ump to be wrong, and there was a strike zone that was relatively consistent from night to night.
But this was one of the most amazing and egregious calls I’ve ever witnessed. There was nothing to precipitate it, other than Sandoval’s hard slide into second base earlier – a slide that any ballplayer would view as a legitimate part of the game.
Perhaps it will come to the surface that what instigated the event was a beanball war in Tampa on Thursday between the Rays and Jays (with 4 HBPs). Word of that sort of thing gets around, and umpires are informed of such with directives to take command and not let these battles get out of control.
In any event, this umpire changed the game, changed the series, changed the road trip, and who knows what else as the dominoes fall relative to relief pitching. We actually may, in time, look back at the Red Sox winning this game 3-2 with a crappy hit in the bottom of the ninth as a moment of good fortune. Going into a pile of extra innings, even if the O’s won the game, might have caused more damage than the lousy ump already has.
Jimenez now has pitched 10.2 innings with only one hit allowed, as he had given up none when tossed from the game. However, he had yielded three walks before plunking Sandoval and was pitching from behind in the count too much. But nobody is hitting much off him at all. It will be interesting to see where the rest of the season takes him.
Though Orioles fans might feel that the umpire stole a win away from the O’s, honestly the Birds need to score more than two runs. The umpire did not cause that to happen.
Up until Brian Matusz walked a leadoff hitter in the 9th inning and wild-pitched him to second from which he would score on the Xander Bogaerts blooper off Tommy Hunter, the only runs by the Red Sox were on a two-run shot by Ryan Hanigan off Kevin Gausman. Boston tallied only four hits on the evening.
What is the story right now with Orioles pitching, especially the bullpen? Altogether the O’s pitching allowed seven walks on the evening. That is just unacceptable. Darren O’Day was the only truly effective reliever.
The bullpen has now allowed a score in all 10 of the Orioles’ games so far. That is totally out of character. History would seem to indicate that this is not a trend that will continue. We must say that it is a surprise to see, in that the pen has been the most consistent segment of the team over the past three winning seasons.
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It is looking more and more that Gausman is simply not a reliever, and why should he be? He has had some successes in that role in the past, but they have come at portions of the season where his previous work was as a starter. I don’t know the answer to this. Could he be slotted into the rotation if Bud Norris continues to flounder?
In light of the pitching struggles and the short outing by Jimenez, could the Orioles possibly address the problem by going with an even shorter bench? Could they send down Flaherty and bring up a pitcher, and then replace that pitcher in a week or so with J.J. Hardy coming back? That is probably a pretty “out there” scenario, but another short outing this weekend or a long extra-innings game might demand such a bold move.