TORONTO — Ubaldo Jimenez is rounding into form at the right time for the Baltimore Orioles.
Jimenez and two relievers combined on a three-hitter and the Orioles beat the Blue Jays 4-0 on Thursday night, moving into a tie with Toronto in the AL wild card race with three games remaining.
“(Jimenez) was in command pretty much all night,” Orioles catcher Matt Wieters said. “In a big game like that, he really kept his emotions under control like I knew he would. He threw the ball great.”
When he last started at Toronto on June 12, Jimenez allowed five runs and six hits in 1/3 of an inning, the shortest start of his career.
“Whatever happened to me in the past, I don’t even think about that,” Jimenez said. “If you get stuck in the past, you’re not going to be able to move on. Whether it’s good or bad, you have to find a way to look forward.”
The right-hander made his return a triumphant one, carving up the Blue Jays for 6 2-3 innings. The only hit he allowed was Ezequiel Carrera’s single to begin the first. Josh Donaldson followed with a walk but Jimenez retired the next six batters in order.
“Boy, he was solid,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “It was big to get a positive feeling early on. It was fun to watch him.”
Devon Travis walked to open the third and advanced on Carrera’s sacrifice, but that was the first of 11 consecutive outs for Jimenez, a streak that ended with Edwin Encarnacion’s two-out walk in the sixth. Jose Bautista flied out to end the inning.
Jimenez (8-12) improved to 3-1 with a 2.31 ERA in five September starts. He walked three and struck out five.
Donnie Hart got one out in the seventh and Brad Brach finished.
The Orioles visit New York for the final weekend of the season, while the Blue Jays head to Boston to face the AL East champion Red Sox.
Detroit, which was rained out Thursday, is 1 1/2 games behind the Orioles and Blue Jays.
Baltimore trailed through eight innings on Wednesday before winning 3-2 on Hyun Soo Kim’s two-run homer in the ninth. Thanks to Jimenez’s effort on Thursday, the Orioles have won five of six.
“This time of year, momentum is huge,” Wieters said. “Over 162 (games), momentum is going to come and go but once you start getting close to the playoffs, momentum is big. We’re going to try and keep it going as long as we can.”
Manny Machado opened the scoring with a sacrifice fly in the third, Michael Bourn’s fielder’s choice grounder made it 2-0 in the fourth and Bourn scored on Kim’s two-out single in the seventh.
Mark Trumbo doubled to begin the eighth and Wieters chased Marcus Stroman with an RBI single.
Stroman (9-10) gave up nine hits and four runs in seven-plus innings, reaching the 200-inning plateau for the first time. Stroman is winless in eight starts.
“We’re hoping our luck starts to turn,” Stroman said. “We’re hoping to go into Boston and come out firing.”
The Orioles have nine shutouts this season. The past six have come against AL East opponents.
The crowd of 47,791 was Toronto’s 39th sellout. The Blue Jays drew an AL-high 3,392,099 this season.
Blue Jays: Travis returned after sitting out the previous two games. He jammed his surgically repaired shoulder in Monday’s benches-clearing brawl with New York.
Orioles: Yovani Gallardo left Toronto on Thursday afternoon to fly to New York, where he will start Friday night against the Yankees. Gallardo (5-8, 5.63) allowed eight runs, seven earned, in 1 1/3 innings in his previous start at New York, a 14-4 loss on Aug. 26. RHP Michael Pineda (6-11, 4.68) starts for the Yankees.
Blue Jays: RHP Marco Estrada will start against the Red Sox on Friday night as Toronto wraps up the regular season in Boston. Estrada has allowed one run and five hits in 14 innings over his previous two outings. Rick Porcello (22-4, 3.11) starts for the Red Sox.