Ubaldo Jimenez has struggled to keep the ball in the park, but when he takes the mound for the Baltimore Orioles on Friday night to open a three-game series against the visiting Kansas City Royals, he will face the team worst equipped to take advantage of his struggles.
The Orioles (11-10) have lost all four games the veteran right-hander has started, in large part because of his knack for allowing home runs. Jimenez (0-3, 6.75 ERA) has given up five, with his 2.11 homers per nine innings the third-most in the AL.
The struggle with the long ball is quite a surprise, given Jimenez allowed one homer in his last 12 starts spanning 78 1-3 innings with Cleveland in 2013.
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The good news is that for as bad as Jimenez has been at allowing home runs, the Royals (10-11) have been even worse at hitting them. Kansas City has gone deep nine times, the fewest in the majors.
Kansas City lost for the fourth time in five games Thursday, managing an unearned run in falling 5-1 at Cleveland.
"You look at our offense today and say we stunk," left fielder Alex Gordon said. "That’s how it was.”
The Royals will turn to rookie Yordano Ventura (1-1, 2.65) to try to get back in the win column. Ventura was roughed up his last time out, allowing four runs and six hits while walking four in four innings of an 8-3 loss to Minnesota.
The right-hander walked three in his first 13 innings of the season.
"He really struggled on repeating his mechanics. On days when he’s going to be off, he’s going to be off on his command," manager Ned Yost said. "When he is off and when he has trouble, he flies open and drops his arm slot a little bit which creates kind of an upward appearance of the ball. When he’s good, he stays closed and is strong downhill."
Ventura will have to deal with a Baltimore lineup that has been rolling of late, totaling 21 runs and 26 hits in back-to-back wins. The heart of the order did most of the damage in Thursday’s 11-4 victory at Toronto, as Nelson Cruz, Chris Davis, Adam Jones and Matt Wieters had two hits apiece and combined for 10 RBIs.
Baltimore has scored 10 or more runs in consecutive games for the first time since Aug. 14-15, 2008, against Cleveland and Detroit.
”We’re going to hit,” Jones said. ”That’s how our lineup is designed. Our lineup is scary and it’s fun to see it click the last couple of nights.”
Cruz has driven in 16 runs during a seven-game RBI streak in which he’s hitting .414 with four homers.
”I know he’s got something to prove,” Wieters said. ”We really like how he fits into our lineup.”
Jimenez made five starts against Kansas City in 2013, going 2-0 with a 2.83 ERA while allowing one home run in 28 2-3 innings. Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer is 8 for 22 (.364) with two homers when facing Jimenez.
The Orioles have won 11 of the last 17 meetings in Baltimore.