ST. PETERSBURG -- Ubaldo Jimenez is taking his second chance and running with it.
After surrendering a three-run homer in the first inning, Jimenez clamped down, retiring the final 17 en route to a dominant complete-game effort to highlight Baltimore's 7-3 series-opening win over the Rays on Monday afternoon at Tropicana Field.
"It feels good. I have the faith that things can change," Jimenez said shortly after his ninth career complete game. "That's why I never give up. I always keep my head up and I just keep moving forward."
Jimenez, who didn't allow a hit after the first, held Tampa Bay to two hits and one walk with six strikeouts. He threw 114 pitches, 75 for strikes, and has turned in three consecutive quality starts since being reinserted into the rotation after Chris Tillman's injury.
"That was fun. I think it was … I don't know 'impressive' is the word. This is a guy that was one of the best pitchers in the game, and on a given night, will be again," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "I think you can almost want something too much. Everybody wanted that so much for Ubaldo, the class with which he's handled everything that's been thrown his way. He's pitched some good games for us. At a time of need, he's really stepped up with Chris being out.
"I thought the second, third inning he kind of found his way a little bit, found his step and kind of gave everybody a feeling in the dugout. Our guys stormed back there and really got after it."
Jimenez, who gave the Orioles their first complete game since Miguel Gonzalez on Sept. 3, 2014, owns a 2.70 ERA over his last four starts. The difference for the righty, who saw his ERA balloon to 7.38 after a July 8 start, has been fastball command.
"He's getting to where he can get ahead in counts and, if he gets behind, he can locate his fastball. On top of that, I think his rhythm and the way he's going about his business is real good right now," catcher Matt Wieters said. "It's not really too much thinking, it's just getting the ball and throw, and he's doing real well."
Jimenez, who became the first Oriole starter to pitch into the ninth inning this season, tossed his first complete game since June 1, 2011. But not everyone was effusive with their praise of the righty.
"I feel like he was effectively wild. ... I think overall we have to do a better job of getting the ball in the zone and barreling him up," Tampa Bay's Logan Morrison, who hit the three-run homer, said.
"There's no reason that he should have thrown a complete game against us today. I didn't think he was that good. He was good, but he wasn't that good. We got ourselves out a lot."