BALTIMORE -- Three times during Ubaldo Jimenez’s eventful four-year career with the Orioles, manager Buck Showalter sent the right-hander to the bullpen in an attempt to get him out of a funk.
It’s worked in 2014, again last year, and now the Orioles are hoping it’s working again.
The right-hander pitched the Orioles’ best game in weeks, allowing just two solo home runs to St. Louis’ Stephen Piscotty in an 8-5 win before 34,854 fans at Oriole Park on June 18.
As Jimenez left the mound after the seventh on a humid day, he received a huge ovation. For weeks, Jimenez had struggled in the rotation, and then after an awful outing on May 22 was sent to the bullpen in favor of right-hander Alec Asher, but the two traded places again.
"It felt great. It felt good, especially today is Father’s Day, so it was a good day. I understand that its part of the game," Jimenez said.
"When things are not going the way you want them to go, of course you’re not going to have a lot of people rooting for you. But it’s a part of the game."
Jimenez allowed two runs on four hits, walking four and striking out three. He was the first Orioles starter to complete seven innings since Wade Miley on June 1.
"I can’t tell you how few pitchers in baseball would have pitched seven innings in that weather," manager Buck Showalter said. "That was pretty remarkable. Last time he had a short stint in the bullpen, he came back and pitched real well. We’re hoping that happens again. We’re going to need things like that again. Really shortened the outs we had to get out of the bullpen, which has been a struggle for us."
Jimenez, who has often struggled in cold weather, flourished in the Orioles’ warmest day of the season.
"It was a really tough day to pitch," Jimenez said. "It was so hot out there and everything was carrying. If you left something hanging, it was going to be out of the park. I think that’s why I had such a pretty good game today."
Jimenez had thrown 7 2/3 innings on both April 19 and May 9. He knew a long outing was needed today.
"He may not admit it, but there's kind of a mental edge there. 'Hey, I've taken a step back and the club needs me to deliver something,'" Showalter said. "I think part of it, quite frankly, he knew there wasn't someone that could pitch in the third or fourth inning. There is. We would do that. But for us to have a chance to win today, he was going to have to pitch six or seven innings."
LONG BALL THE KEY: Right fielder Seth Smith hit his third leadoff home run this season. First baseman Trey Mancini led off the second with his 12th. Designated hitter Mark Trumbo had a two-run homer, his 10th in the fifth. Three batters later, catcher Welington Castillo hit his seventh.
"Since I've been here, I've never seen the ball carry like it carried today," Showalter said. "We have days like that here."
"It was carrying really well so it’s good for the hitters and not-so-good for the pitchers," Smith said. "I’m a hitter, so it was good for me."
The Orioles got back to .500 (34-34) with the win. They’re now 23-11 at home.
"Every win’s important. They feel a little more so after a tough stretch," Smith said. "In reality, we need to start winning some games and everybody knows that, so it’s good to win the last two."
OUCH: Shortstop J.J. Hardy suffered a bruised right wrist when he was hit by a pitch from Lance Lynn in the fourth inning. He left the game in the sixth and was replaced by Ruben Tejada.
"Not good, not good. We took an X-ray here, saw something that concerned us," Showalter said. "I know he’s got a scan in the morning and we’ll have a little more definitive idea there."
Hardy was the fourth Oriole to get by a pitch in the last two games.
If Hardy needs to go to the 10-day disabled list, the most likely players to replace him on the active roster are infielders Paul Janish and Luis Sardinas, both of whom would have to be added to the 40-man roster.
THERE SHE GOES: The Orioles hit 10 home runs in this series, nine in the last two days. They have 99 home runs and are on a pace to hit 237.
Last season, they hit 253.
MORE LONG BALL: The Orioles became the second team in the majors with six players with 10 or more home runs. Chris Davis (14) leads them. Third baseman Manny Machado and second baseman Jonathan Schoop (13), Mancini (12), center fielder Adam Jones (12) and Trumbo (10) are the others.
The New York Yankees are the only other team to have six players with at least homers.
TRIPLE IT: The Orioles had two triples in the fifth inning. Jones and Mancini both tripled, giving the Orioles five this season. Davis, Hardy and catcher Caleb Joseph have the other three.
The last time the Orioles had two triples in an inning was Aug. 14, 2009 when Cesar Izturis and Felix Pie tripled in the seventh.
POROUS BULLPEN: After Jimenez left, left-hander Vidal Nuno walked Matt Carpenter and allowed Dexter Fowler’s third home run in as many days.
Right-hander Miguel Castro allowed a two-out home run to Yadier Molina. It was the first time Castro had pitched at home for the Orioles.
In five outings, Castro has allowed two runs in 7 1/3 innings.
Right-hander Brad Brach worked a perfect ninth for his 12th save. The Orioles haven’t allowed fewer than five runs in a game in their last 15 games.
"If you had told me after the first inning that we were only going to give up five runs, I would have been real happy with that," Showalter said. "I feel like we would have been in the game. I thought Castro had a couple of key outs. There was some of that … People know we've had some struggles in that situation, and when he came in and got a couple of quick outs, it made up for a solo home run. It made Brad have to pitch. Brad has had a lot of rest, so he's ready to go. He only threw 11 pitches and shortened the end of the day. So, he's really been efficient. I don't know where we'd be without Brad."
COMING UP: The Orioles open a four-game series with the defending American LeagIue champion Cleveland Indians on June 19. Right-handers Dylan Bundy (7-5, 3.29) and Corey Kluber (5-2, 4.15) are the scheduled starters.