Ubaldo, O's cruise past Blue Jays in Sanchez's first start
By Gregor Chisholm and Brittany Ghiroli
BALTIMORE -- Ubaldo Jimenez fired seven scoreless innings and the Orioles used three home runs -- including Jonathan Schoop's first career grand slam -- to outdistance the Blue Jays, 7-1, in Saturday's series-evening win at Camden Yards.
Jimenez, showcasing a simplified delivery he incorporated last year when he moved to the bullpen, flummoxed Toronto all evening, allowing just one single. The righty -- signed to a four-year, $50-million deal last winter -- struck out eight and walked one and exited to a rousing ovation from the home crowd for the 96-pitch outing.
"It felt great," Jimenez said of the home fans' reaction. "Every time I was pounding the strike zone, they were very excited. We got our first win at home; [it] feels great."
Aaron Sanchez had a dismal first Major League start for the Blue Jays, allowing home runs to Alejandro De Aza and Chris Davis and exiting after just 3 1/3 innings. Toronto, which plated 12 runs in Friday's win, had just five baserunners all evening, including Edwin Encarnacion's RBI single in the ninth.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Jimenez makes a statement: Taken out of the rotation down the stretch last year, Jimenez said all spring he was confident he could be better. And the righty proved it, holding Toronto to only a walk and a single over seven dominant frames. Jimenez pounded the strike zone to pick up his first win of the season at Camden Yards, where he went 3-6 with a 5.49 ERA last year.
"If you've got any type of heart or feelings at all, you know how much it means for him to contribute," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said of Jimenez. "He did some last year, but it was very obvious early in the spring that he came into this for the right reasons. He wants to contribute to a good club. He likes the commitment his teammates and everybody have made to him. Nobody worked harder than him. You can tell he did it in the offseason, too. He came in here with a real purpose." More >
Sanchez's first-pitch woes:Sanchez pitched from behind throughout his outing, throwing first-pitch strikes to just four of the 18 batters he faced. One of those first-pitch strikes was taken over the left-field wall in the first inning by Davis, while another came in the second on a single by Everth Cabrera. Despite the issues, Sanchez was able to limit the damage, but with a high pitch count and the number of baserunners allowed, he didn't make it out of the fourth inning.
"Fastball command wasn't there, and when you don't have that as a pitcher, you're going to struggle," Sanchez said. "Tonight, that's what happened." More >
O's come out swinging: De Aza opened with a leadoff homer and, one out later, Davis followed with his first blast of the season. But Schoop's grand slam stole the show, as the second-year infielder clobbered a ball off Todd Redmond in the fifth inning to increase the Orioles' lead to seven. More >
Blue Jays bats go quiet: Toronto scored 27 runs over its first four games, but the offense went quiet against Jimenez. Earlier in the day, Blue Jays manager John Gibbons decided to make a change to his lineup by moving center fielder Dalton Pompey into the second spot of the batting order while sliding Russell Martin down to the six-hole. Not much can be read into one game, but Pompey went hitless in four at-bats while Martin went 0-for-2 with a pair of strikeouts.
"Not only was he throwing strikes, he was hitting the corners pretty good," Gibbons said of Jimenez. "He's got that good live fastball, that's his bread and butter. He's a seasoned vet, and I think that's the best we've seen of him since he came over here. … He was the big difference."
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Sanchez had his streak of 12 consecutive appearances without an earned run snapped during the first at-bat of Saturday night's game. Prior to De Aza's solo homer, Sanchez went from Aug. 26-Sept. 27, 2014, without allowing a run.
• The Orioles placed Wesley Wright on the disabled list (left trapezius strain) and recalled Eddie Gamboa from Triple-A Norfolk prior to the game. Wright is having an MRI on Monday. More >
• Blue Jays outfielder Michael Saunders (left knee surgery) went 1-for-3 with a double and a run scored in another rehab start for Class A Advanced Dunedin on Saturday night. It was Saunders' third rehab game of the year, but it marked the first time he played the field. His previous at-bats came as a DH, but in Dunedin's 2-1 loss, he hit leadoff and played left field.
WHAT'S NEXT Blue Jays: Right-hander Drew Hutchison will make his second start of the year vs. a team he's enjoyed a lot of success against during his young career. Hutchison faced the Orioles six times last season and posted a 3-1 record with a 2.54 ERA. The 24-year-old got the win on Opening Day in New York by allowing one run over six quality innings against the Yankees.
Orioles:Chris Tillman will look to follow up a solid Opening Day outing when he faces the Blue Jays on Sunday. Tillman got the win after allowing one run on four hits -- including a home run -- and three walks with four strikeouts in 6 2/3 innings against Tampa Bay.