The last time the Baltimore Orioles played at home, no fans were there to see it.
Following a long road trip, Baltimore – along with the Oriole faithful – will finally return to Camden Yards on Monday night to face the Toronto Blue Jays.
Due to safety concerns with civil unrest in Baltimore following the death of Freddie Gray, the Orioles (13-16) played in front of an empty stadium on April 29, then "hosted" a three-game set at Tampa Bay from May 1-3.
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They went 3-1 during that tumultuous four-game stretch, but in six true road games since, the Orioles have struggled. They were swept in a two-game series with the New York Mets, then lost three of four against the Yankees.
Baltimore batted .238, totaled 18 runs and struck out 60 times in those six games, 16 coming against Yankees starter Michael Pineda on Sunday. The starting pitchers posted a 5.81 ERA and completed six innings only twice.
”I think everybody’s anxiously looking forward to getting back and getting on the field and getting back to the city, without a doubt for the right reasons," manager Buck Showalter said after his team’s 6-2 loss on Sunday.
Ubaldo Jimenez (2-2, 2.36 ERA) will take the mound in the series opener. He has slightly cooled off after dealing 10 2-3 scoreless innings through his first two starts, but will be happy to return home where he is 5-0 with a 1.36 ERA in his past five starts.
The right-hander allowed two unearned runs and struck out six over seven innings in the empty-stadium game against the Chicago White Sox, then surrendered three runs, six hits and two walks in four innings Wednesday in a 5-1 loss to the Mets.
”Every time you start walking guys, you’re always going to pay for that,” Jimenez said. ”I did not have any feel for my breaking ball.”
Free passes have plagued Jimenez in the past as well. His 5.53 walks per nine innings in 2014, and 4.84 rate in 2012 resulted in the two worst ERAs of his career (4.81 and 5.40, respectively), whereas 3.94 walks per nine in 2013 led to a 3.30 ERA.
He’s walked a career-low 3.38 per nine innings this season.
Jimenez has split two starts against Toronto this year and has handled sluggers Jose Bautista (2 for 29), Josh Donaldson (1 for 12) and Edwin Encarnacion (6 for 28).
Bautista, though, is 5 for 15 with two homers, six RBIs and seven runs against the Orioles this year.
Toronto (16-16) has won five of six against Baltimore, with the only loss coming to Jimenez at Camden Yards on April 11. The Blue Jays have scored 34 runs and collected 42 hits – 23 for extra bases – during four straight wins in the series.
Three more hits from Chris Colabello weren’t enough to help Toronto win a fourth straight Sunday, falling 6-3 to Boston. Called up from Triple-A Buffalo on Tuesday, Colabello is 10 for 18 with a homer and four RBIs in five games.
Marco Estrada (1-1, 2.93) makes his second start in place of demoted Daniel Norris. After striking out 11 over 9 2-3 scoreless innings in five relief appearances, the right-hander was tagged for five runs and eight hits over 4 2-3 innings in his return to the rotation Tuesday, a 6-3 loss to the Yankees.
Estrada allowed one run over two innings in two games against Baltimore last month.