When left-hander Bruce Zimmermann takes the mound, almost everything besides the dough he faces falls out of his mind. So he knew he had to take care of the day’s most important task well in advance of tough rubber during the second game of Sunday’s double header for the Orioles.
“I made sure to get [my mom] some flowers today, ”said Zimmermann. “Duties only.”
Zimmermann, a native of Ellicott City, then took care of his baseball duties. He shone again at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, allowing two runs, five hits and no walks in six innings while hitting five. And he did so with his parents in the crowd, even though his attention during the fight was solely on the strike zone.
The play from Zimmermann laid the groundwork for Baltimore’s 4-2 win over the Kansas City Royals after a solid start from right-hander Jordan Lyles in the first game of the doubles header, a 6-4 loss. Zimmermann continued his dominance at Camden Yards, bringing his season total on the ball field to four earned runs in 20 innings.
This is the ball field he so often visited when he was growing up. He started the home opener here to begin this season, and did so in front of family and friends. This is where he feels comfortable, and that level of comfort is evident every time he jogs out to the hill.
And while his mother, Marcie, did not manage to spend Mother’s Day talking to her son, she spent part of it watching him pitch, a pastime that has been an almost constant throughout the 27-year-old’s life.
“They left after I came out,” Zimmermann said of his parents. “As one of five, you can only pick and choose one child so many times. She would like to see a bunch of the other grandchildren and stuff like that, but she stayed in my turn.”
These innings were strong, with blips in the second and sixth innings the only flaws. Zimmermann allowed a run in the second on a sacrificial fly, saddled with a leadoff triple from Hunter Dozier because right fielder Tyler Nevin misjudged his route and came up empty on a jump on the wall.
And besides Dozier’s RBI single in sixth, Zimmermann cruised mainly. His four-stitch fastball resulted in 13 called strikes or whiffs that joined his change to create an impressive one-two strokes. Zimmermann threw a season-high 85 lanes, giving the kind of length that can help a bullpen preparing to play three games in 24 hours. It’s also a step in the right direction as the Orioles hope to stretch Zimmermann out.
“If he finished the sixth clean, he would go back to the seventh,” said manager Brandon Hyde. “Of course I want to see how the match is played and see how he performs, but I want him to go deep.”
Zimmermann received immediate offensive support, with the Orioles playing three races in the first half. Singles from center-back Cedric Mullins and designated hitter Trey Mancini set the stage before left-back Austin Hays left. The three of them scored, with a delivered ball, Ryan Mountcastle single and Ramón Uría’s sacrificial fly that did the damage.
Earlier in the day, when they were faced with a similar situation, Oriole’s plague fell. But in Sunday night’s doublehead header, the first-inning breakthrough was enough to get Baltimore through to a double-count. While Nevin’s foul play in the second helped the Royals get on the board, his RBI single in the fifth made up for it, teasing Urías and creating a cushion enough for the bullpen to close the game.
But despite all the strong deliveries from pitchers on Sunday, perhaps no one was more clutch than the flowers Zimmermann ensured his mother received, a special praise while he was busy playing baseball – as he often saw is.
Have a week, Hays
The line drive right by the left fielder in the fifth inning of Sunday’s second game was just a brief interruption in what was otherwise an on-base clinic from Hays. Even the dribbler he hit back to right-hander Dylan Coleman went in Hays’ favor, with an off-line throw that helped Hays reach base for the eighth time in nine attempts on Sunday.
“When he swings to punch, as I’ve said a lot, he hits the ball hard,” Hyde said. “And right now he’s a little more patient, he’s getting good counts, he’s going for some walks.”
Across his week, the Hays finished 10-to-21, including a home run that fitted the extended left field wall and a throw from the left that nipped the Minnesota Twins’ Max Kepler on the plate Thursday.
Hays has been Baltimore’s most consistent dough, and he hit a hot streak in New York against the Yankees on April 28, where he got three doubles. Since then, he has recorded 17 hits in 39 strokes. If there’s a sign that Orioles’ attacks are finding any rhythm, it’s coming when they study Hays.
“When Austin is not trying to do too much, he is extremely dangerous because he hits the ball so hard he has so much power to both sides of the court,” Hyde said. “That’s what I see, just a little bit more in control in the dough box right now.”
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