CINCINNATI — Ubaldo Jimenez was one of the reasons the Baltimore Orioles reached the postseason last year with a sub-3.00 ERA down the stretch.
He also threw the final pitch of the Orioles’ season to the Toronto Blue Jays’ Edwin Encarnacion, who hit a walk-off homer in the American League wild-card game.
Jimenez still is trying to recapture the consistency that helped him reach double-digit wins five times in his career. He makes his third start of the season Wednesday night against the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park, coming off a frustrating outing last week against the Boston Red Sox when he couldn’t escape the fifth inning of the Orioles’ 12-5 win.
Jimenez (0-0) owns a 10.38 ERA this year, but he has had success against the Reds, going 3-0 with a 3.00 ERA in his career.
“My fastball command was good, breaking ball was good, but I was throwing way too many pitches per hitter,” Jimenez told the Baltimore Sun following his last start. “I think that’s something that I need to work on. In these last two games, I haven’t found a way to put hitters away, even when I get ahead.”
That was not the case for the rest of the Baltimore’s rotation, which posted a collective 1.85 ERA while taking three of four in Toronto.
While Jimenez is in his 10th major league season, Cincinnati’s starter on Wednesday, rookie right-hander Amir Garrett (2-0), will be making just his third career start.
Garrett is off to a fine start with a 1.42 ERA through two outings, both of which were on the road against National League Central rivals St. Louis and Pittsburgh. He has walked just two in 12 2/3 innings after issuing only six free passes in 21 1/3 innings in spring training.
“The key for him is to harness all his pitches in the zone,” Reds manager Bryan Price said. “He’s got a very good fastball. The changeup and slider have improved greatly. The changeup is a difference-maker for him to hit the ground running at the major league level.”
Garrett who played basketball in college at St. John’s University, began his career with 12 straight scoreless innings, tied for the second-longest such streak by a Reds pitcher. Wayne Simpson started his career in 1970 with 15 straight scoreless frames.
The Reds and Orioles each have injury concerns for Wednesday.
Cincinnati third baseman Eugenio Suarez was scratched from the starting lineup Tuesday due to a stiff neck, but is expected to be back Wednesday.
Baltimore left fielder Seth Smith left the Tuesday game with a strained right hamstring after going 0-for-2 with a walk. His injury could be more serious, according to manager Buck Showalter, who expects to know more on Wednesday.
The Reds are off to a surprisingly good start despite relying heavily on their bullpen in the first two weeks.
“We’re (9-5) and we’ve only gotten four strong starts from three pitchers,” Price said. “It’s not just on the shoulders of the veteran (starters). It’s a five-man responsibility. If we don’t have guys who can pitch into the sixth inning consistently, maybe we don’t have the right mix.”
This is the first interleague series of the season for both teams. Baltimore (8-4) leads the all-time series 6-4, but the Reds own a 3-1 advantage at Great American Ball Park, where the teams hadn’t played since 2005 before Tuesday. In 2011, the Reds played in Baltimore for the first time since the 1970 World Series.