Despite nobody but the 20,000+ in attendance seeing it live, Ubaldo Jimenez’s hot streak of the past two months did continue, as he went up against another solid team and shut them down for six innings. With one major mistake on the day, Ubaldo helped lead the Tribe to a 7-3 victory to take game three of a four game swing heading into the All-Star break.
The turning point for Jimenez in this period has been his command of the strike zone. In 97 pitches, 60 of them found the strike zone and he walked just one batter. Other than losing a pair of fastballs in the fourth to Ben Zobrist for a double and then Luke Scott for a two-run homer, Jimenez seemed to have command of all his pitches and got half of his eight strikeouts via the changeup.
It’s no secret that I’ve been one of the most vocal critics of the Ubaldo Jimenez trade executed last July by Indians General Manager Chris Antonetti. I remain concerned that Drew Pomeranz will in time turn into a top-flight left-handed force in Colorado or someone else’s starting rotation for years to come. However, it would be foolish for me not to at least eat a bit of crow regarding the way that Ubaldo Jimenez has pitched in the past 7 starts. If this is the Ubaldo that we primarily have for the next year and a half and the Tribe can parlay that into a playoff appearance or two, my concerns are foolish and I am entirely wrong in my objections to this trade. I hope I’m wrong, because this version of Ubaldo Jimenez is quite tolerable and, dare I say it, enjoyable to watch. When Jimenez isn’t his own worst enemy with falling behind in counts and walking people, he’s quite difficult for opposing hitters to square up and hit.
Offensively, the Indians did most of their damage in the second and third innings. With the Tribe resting lefties Kipnis, Hafner, Damon, and Kotchman against the rookie southpaw Matt Moore, they had their full bench of Lou Marson, Shelley Duncan, Jose Lopez, and Aaron Cunnigham in the lineup. These right-handed options have been delivering in a big way recently, and they did not disappoint today. Lou Marson, the hottest hitter on the team, added a RBI double in the second inning, and Cunningham added a RBI double of his own. Late in the contest, it was Shelley Duncan who spared Chris Perez an appearance with a 2-run homer, his fourth in the last eight days. In addition to the five doubles in the second and third innings, the Tribe’s situational hitting was sound with a pair of RBI groundouts from Jack Hannahan and Michael Brantley. With his limited resources, I feel Acta’s largely been good at riding the hot hand and pushing the right buttons as evidenced by trusting his right-handed bench and playing Marson several times a week lately. It should only continue too as Santana tries to work his way out of an overwhelming slump.
With Nick Hagadone sent down earlier in the afternoon, Tony Sipp was the lone lefty in the bullpen. He turned in another good performance, setting down the Rays in order in the seventh. With Scott Barnes likely headed back to Cleveland tomorrow, it will be Sipp who will be counted on when there is a key lefty matchup late. Hopefully, it’s the Sipp of the last three years that will show up and not the one-pitch, homer-happy Tony Sipp from the first half of this season. Vinnie Pestano added a solid eighth inning for his major-league leading 22nd hold, followed by Esmil Rogers finishing things off after giving up a leadoff homer to B.J. Upton to start the top of the ninth.
The Indians are now 44-40 and still sit three games back of Chicago. They will face the Rays this afternoon with Zach McAllister taking on right-hander James Shields.
(Photo: Tony Dejak/AP)