BALTIMORE — Ubaldo Jimenez struck out the first batter he faced plus the final two in the first inning. It’s what he did in between that helped lead to his third loss in five starts.
Everything that followed ensured the Baltimore Orioles would start a new streak, the losing kind.
While Jimenez and reliever Brian Matusz labored recording outs, Mariners starter Wade Miley dominated the Orioles' bats and Nelson Cruz blasted his former team with a home run and five RBIs as Seattle won 10-0 in the opener of a three-game series.
The standings indicated a matchup of American League division leaders. In terms of the performance, that equaled false advertising from the Orioles side.
Coming off Sunday’s 6-5 loss against Detroit, the Orioles (23-14) fell behind 2-0 in the first inning and fell apart in the fifth as the AL West-leading Mariners (22-16) scored five runs. Baltimore had not lost two straight games since the last day of April and first day of May against the Chicago White Sox. Seattle entered on a three-game losing streak.
Jimenez (2-4) allowed six runs – including two just four batters into the game — on five hits and four walks over 4 1/3 innings. Matusz stood out by making Jimenez look effective. The lefty gave up four runs on five hits including home runs to Kyle Seager and Cruz, who had three hits against his former team.
"Just command," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said of the root cause behind his starter's woes before expanding that notion to others. "Command was a challenge for us tonight."
Miley (4-2) cruised throughout his six innings of work. He didn't’t allow a hit until Matt Wieters’ leadoff single in the fifth and just two overall. Two relievers followed, including ex-Oriole Steve Johnson, as Balitmore wasA shutout for the third time this season.
Entering the day, Baltimore stood in a virtual tie with Boston for first place in the A.L. East. The Orioles have spent all but four days in first place this season. The Red Sox played at Kansas City Tuesday.
Jimenez’s ragged opening frame included two walks, his own throwing error, a wild pitch, a double, and Cruz’s two-run single before most of the sparse crowd settled in following day-long rain showers. The right-hander found a groove over the next three innings and then promptly lost it in the fifth after recording one out.
"A lot of times he gives up some damage early, but falls in place and gives us a chance," Showalter said of Jimenez. "I thought that was going to happen tonight. There in the fifth, it just left him again."
After a base hit and walk, RBI singles by Robinson Cano and Cruz chased Jimenez, who has pitched fewer than six innings in three of his last four starts. His ERA is now an unsightly 6.00 over eight starts. Frequent early struggles haven't helped.
"It was tough," Jimenez said of the 34-pitch first inning. "They didn’t make it easy for me. They had a good approach. They were hitting the ball to the opposite way instead of trying to hit home runs."
The Mariners saved that approach for Matusz, who entered and immediately gave up a three-run blast to Seager. Cruz mashed a two-run home run in the sixth.
The left-hander has allowed at least one run in three of his last four appearances and now sports a 12.00 ERA.
"It’s been frustrating for him and us because we know what he’s been capable of in the past," Showalter said. "Brian just hasn’t found his step yet. It’s a job we’re going to need him to do what he’s capable of doing."
Chris Davis had Baltimore's only other hit off Miley, a sixth-inning double one out after Manny Machado walked, but both were stranded. Adam Jones went 0-for-3, snapping his eight-game hitting streak.
"I just think he had his stuff working early. He didn’t really miss too much," outfielder Joey Rickard said of Miley after going hitless in three at-bats with a walk. "He’s a competitor. It was tough for us to kind of get into a rhythm."
That hasn't been an issue much of this season. Baltimore's longest losing streak is a mere three games. Losing Wednesday's contest would match that mark.
"I just think it’s the vibes in this clubhouse," the rookie Rickard said of why the Orioles have avoided lengthy slides this season. "The veteran guys have been around. As soon as the game is over, you don’t dwell on it too much and get ready for the next one."
Game two of the series pits Baltimore Chris Tillman (5-1, 2.58 ERA) against Seattle's Taijuan Walker (2-2, 2.63) Wednesday night.