O's ride hot hand, 2nd-half star Ubaldo

O's ride hot hand, 2nd-half star Ubaldo

TORONTO -- Just who is this guy anyway?

Ubaldo Jimenez, who had struggled enough to be demoted to the bullpen, continued his sensational second-half turnaround on Thursday night to move the Orioles into a tie with the Blue Jays for the top American League Wild Card spot. Jimenez -- who has been the O's most consistent pitcher over the past month -- again came up big, tossing 6 2/3 scoreless innings in Baltimore's 4-0 critical road series win.

"How do you describe that outing? That's seven in a row for him now," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said of Jimenez, who lasted just one out the previous time he started in Toronto in June.

"We were trying to decide how we wanted to go with pitching. The deciding factor was going with the hot hand, regardless of how someone has pitched in a ballpark. That kind of overrides that. Boy was he solid. He gave [catcher Matt Wieters] a lot of weapons to work with tonight. He had both sides of the plate, stayed aggressive, didn't let them get comfortable off him, and you could tell he was a confident pitcher tonight."

Jimenez held a potent Toronto lineup to just one hit, striking out five in a dominant 116-pitch effort that gave Baltimore its first series win in Toronto this year.

It also completes the turnaround for the the 32-year-old Jimenez, who went 5-9 with a 7.38 ERA in the first half of the season. His second-half ERA is now 2.82.

"That's the main thing for me is I have a lot of faith. It doesn't matter how many times you fall, they say, it's how many times you get up. That's something I've always put in my head," said Jimenez, who has allowed just 19 earned runs over 60 2/3 second-half innings. "I thank God every day for giving me the strength to find a way to fight and recover."

Jimenez has failed to go at least six innings just once in his past six starts, tossing a complete game on Sept. 5 against Tampa Bay and giving the Orioles some badly needed clutch pitching performances.

"He was in command pretty much all night, and in a big game like that, he really kept his emotions under control and I knew he would," Wieters said. "He threw the ball great."

Jimenez, who has gone 17 consecutive innings without giving up an earned run, put the O's in a great spot to nab a playoff berth, and the righty wasn't afraid to take in the moment.

"It felt great," he said of stepping up in a key win. "There's no words to put it [in perspective], but all of the guys, they know what we are playing for and everyone is doing their parts, especially the last two games."

Brittany Ghiroli has covered the Orioles for MLB.com since 2010. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, follow her on Facebook and Twitter @britt_ghiroli, and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.