BALTIMORE – Buck Showalter has seen scores of hot starts in the major leagues. He knows that inevitably a rookie cools off.
Maybe Joey Rickard is different.
The Orioles’ Rule 5 draft choice started Thursday night’s game in center field and hit leadoff for the first time. He secured the game with his first major league home run.
Rickard’s joyride can’t possibly continue.
“Why can’t it?” Showalter asked. “You don’t take that away from somebody.”
Rickard helped give the Orioles a three-game sweep to start the season as they beat the Minnesota Twins 4-2 before 11,142 at Oriole Park.
The Orioles (3-0) have matched their fastest start since 2012 when they also swept the Twins (0-3).
Not only has Rickard been outstanding, but the much maligned pitching staff that was battered during spring training has a sparkling ERA of 1.67 in the first three games.
Ubaldo Jimenez hung in on a night he initially didn’t have his best stuff. His fortunes rapidly improved, and with the help of some late offense, got the win and got to defend the staff
“You might hear a lot of things about us, but I don’t that’s something that is going to motivate you more than just being out there for the team, for the fans, for the whole city. That’s the only thing you need. You’re not going to be motivated by (other) stuff,” Jimenez said.
In his first three innings, Jimenez (1-0) allowed six hits and the Orioles trailed by two runs. However, Jimenez settled down and gave the Orioles a more than creditable start.
Joe Mauer hit a home run to right-center in the first, and the Twins took a 2-0 lead off Jimenez in the second due to a two-base error by Chris Davis.
Minnesota could have added on, but after they began the third with runners on first and third, Jimenez struck out Miguel Sano and retired Trevor Plouffe on a double play.
Jimenez (1-0) retired 11 of his final 12 batters and struck out nine without walking a batter in seven innings.
Dylan Bundy finally reemerged after more than 3 ½ seasons away from the major leagues. In first major league game since Sept. 25, 2012, Bundy pitched a scoreless eighth thanks to Caleb Joseph throwing out pinch runner Eduardo Nunez to end the inning.
“Even though it’s been four years, it seems like just the other day I was doing it. But I was nervous. I think everybody saw that. I didn’t really have my fastball command, but it was still fun to get back out there since it’s been so long,” Bundy said.
It’s been a while—1,290 days.
“I did not know that number. I just know it was a long time. That’s a lot of games,” Bundy said.
He’s a different pitcher now.
“You could say a little smarter, I guess, even though I haven’t pitched as many games as people would have hoped to. But the mental side of it, being hurt three years, it’s not easy getting through that. Staying in shape and keeping your body in shape and keeping your arm ready to go whenever it’s healthy. Right now, it is,” Bundy said.
Manny Machado hit his first home run off Phil Hughes (0-1) in the sixth, cutting Minnesota’s lead to 2-1.
In the seventh, Mark Trumbo and J.J. Hardy singled off Hughes, and after rain stopped the game for 21 minutes, Trevor May quickly threw a wild pitch, and Trumbo scored to tie the score at 2.
Pedro Alvarez struck out, and Hardy scored on Jonathan Schoop’s single to left, and the Orioles led 3-2.
Rickard homered to lead off the eighth, and with the crowd still chanting his name two batters leading, gave a quick and embarrassed wave of his helmet to silence the crowd.
“That’s not me. I was just going to hang back in the dugout, but they kept chanting. I gave them what they wanted, and I appreciate it,” Rickard said.
The wonderful week goes on.
“It’s been surreal. It’s hard to explain. It’s been everything I imagined and more. I’m having a lot of fun right now, and I hope to keep it going,” Rickard said.
Showalter is pleased with what he’s seen from Rickard.
“I'm happy for him. I'm really impressed with how he's handled the good things that have come his way these last couple months,” Showalter said.
Darren O’Day struck out the side in the ninth for the save.
NOTES: Brian Matusz pitched one inning for Bowie, allowing a run, walking one and striking out two. He’s scheduled to pitch there again Friday and be activated Sunday. … Chris Archer (0-1, 3.60) pitches against Chris Tillman (0-0, 0.00) as the Tampa Bay Rays begin a three-game series with the Orioles on Friday night.
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