Ubaldo Jimenez has had a pretty rough start to the season, but he showed last night why the Orioles were willing to give him a four-year, $50 million contract over the winter. In addition to tossing 7 1/3 scoreless innings in a 3-0 victory over the Twins, he struck out a season-high 10 batters. It was his first win with Baltimore.
One of the most encouraging signs of all for Jimenez was that he only issued one walk. The veteran right-hander had allowed 17 free passes in 27 1/3 innings coming into Friday’s outing. He still owns an ugly 5.19 ERA for the year, but it was a step in the right direction.
As for Nelson Cruz, the Orioles’ other big offseason acquisition, he just keeps on rolling. He blasted a two-run homer off Ricky Nolasco last night and is now batting .297/.377/.594 with eight home runs and 27 RBI through 26 games.
With the Yankees’ loss last night, the Orioles currently sit in first-place in the American League East at 15-12.
Your Friday box scores:
Orioles 3, Twins 0
White Sox 5, Indians 12
Cardinals 5, Cubs 6
Rays 10, Yankees 5 (14 innings)
Mets 3, Rockies 10
Nationals 5, Phillies 3
Athletics 1, Red Sox 7
Blue Jays 5, Pirates 6
Tigers 8, Royals 2
Brewers 2, Reds 0
Mariners 4, Astros 5 (11 innings)
Dodgers 3, Marlins 6
Rangers 5, Angels 2
Giants 2, Braves 1
Diamondbacks 2, Padres 0
Retired big league pitcher Barry Zito has a memoir coming out. Much of it will likely track the usual course of an athlete’s memoir. The thrill of victory, the agony of defeat and a few fun and/or sad and/or thoughtful anecdotes along the way. One bit of it, though, is not the stuff of the usual athlete memoir.
He writes that he ctually rooted against the San Francisco Giants — his own team — in the 2010 World Series. He did so because he was left off the postseason roster, felt miserable about it and let his ego consume him. From the San Francisco Chronicle:
“It was really hard to admit . . . I rooted against the team because my ego was in full control and if we lost then I could get out of there . . . It would a) prove they couldn’t do it without me, and b) take me out of the situation because I was so miserable coming to the field every day. I was so deep in shame. I wanted out of that situation so bad.”
Zito at that point was midway through a seven-year, $126 million contract he signed with the Giants after the 2006 season. Almost as soon as he signed it he transformed from one of the better pitchers in the game — he had a 124 ERA+ in eight seasons with the Oakland Athletics and won the 2002 Cy Young Award — to being a liability for the Giants. Indeed, he only had one season in San Francisco where, again, by ERA+, he was a league-average starter or better. In 2010 he went 9-14 with a 4.15 ERA and was way worse than that down the stretch. It made perfect sense for the Giants to leave him off the 2010 postseason roster. And, of course, it worked out for them.
Things would improve. He’d still generally struggle as a Giant, but in 2012 he was a hero of the NLCS, pitching the Giants past the Cardinals in a must-win game. He then got the Game 1 start in the World Series and beat Justin Verlander as the Giants won that game and then swept the Tigers out of the series. As time went on he’d fine more personal happiness as well. When his contract ended following the 2013 season Zito took out a full-page ad in the San Francisco Chronicle thanking Giants fans for their support. He’d leave the game in 2014 and pitch three more games for the Athletics in 2015 before retiring for good.
Not many baseball memoirs deliver hard truths like Zito’s appears willing to do. That’s pretty damn brave of him. And pretty damn admirable.