Detroit Tigers (22-12) at Baltimore Orioles (20-16)
Time/Place: 7:05 p.m., Oriole Park at Camden Yards
SB Nation blog: Camden Chat
Pitching Matchup: LHP Drew Smyly (2-2, 2.96 ERA) vs. RHP Ubaldo Jimenez (2-4, 4.73 ERA)
Ubaldo Jimenez's tenure with the Orioles got off to a rocky start. He went 0-4 with a 6.59 ERA in April, allowing nearly as many earned runs (20) as he had strikeouts (21). To make matters worse, his first four opponents were AL East clubs and he only made it out of the sixth inning one time against them. He walked three or more batters in four of his five April starts and allowed five home runs, four at Camden Yards.
Things took a major U-turn at the start of May, however. Jimenez dominated the Minnesota Twins in his first start of the month, tossing 7 1/3 shutout innings while striking out 10. He held the Tampa Bay Rays to one run in 5 1/3 innings in his last outing, another Orioles victory. A quick look at Jimenez's career splits reveals that this is nothing out of the ordinary for him. April has historically been the worst month of his career in just about every statistical category. Last season, he had a 7.13 ERA in five April starts before holding down a 2.72 ERA for the rest of the season.
Regardless of the strong numbers, the Tigers were not fooled one bit by what Jimenez had to offer. They knocked him around for 12 runs (10 earned) and a .930 OPS in three starts, all of which came after May 1st. Jimenez's career stats against the Tigers are not favorable (for him) at first glance, but a deeper look shows that he has shut the Tigers down in isolated appearances. He allowed one run in six innings in his first start against the Tigers in 2013, an Indians victory. In 2012, he had four quality starts in six appearances against Detroit.
Drew Smyly had a very fifth-starter-like outing in his last appearance, allowing three runs in 5 1/3 innings against the Houston Astros. Things might have been okay had the Tigers plated more runs and/or the bullpen kept the deficit close, but neither party was able to do their job and Smyly suffered his second loss of the year. He walked three and only struck out two, marking the first start in his career where he walked more batters than he fanned. Overall, Smyly is sporting a healthy 2.56 strikeout-to-walk ratio, but is stranding 81.4% of baserunners thanks to a .188 batting average allowed -- and .100 BABIP -- with runners in scoring position.
David Lough and Nelson Cruz are the only Orioles hitters to ever record a hit off of Smyly, who has logged eight scoreless innings out of relief against the O's in his career. Lough's double came as a member of the Kansas City Royals last season, while Cruz's was in 2012 when he played for the Texas Rangers. Of all the other hitters who have failed to reach base against Smyly, Chris Davis has been especially baffled, striking out in all three at-bats.
The Tigers are very familiar with Jimenez after he made 13 starts against them in 2 1/2 years with the Indians -- not to mention another start in 2011 as a member of the Colorado Rockies. His recent turnaround is promising, but his outing against the Twins is the only real dominant start he has had in 2014. Meanwhile, Smyly has continued to dominant lefties, holding them to a .362 OPS (!) this season. As a team, the Orioles are hitting just .221/.265/.362 against left-handed starters despite a righty-heavy everyday lineup. Whichever lineup can get over their woeful platoon splits against today's starter should come away with a W.
Smyly out-duels Jimenez... in a pair of rain-shortened outings.