That one month run where Ubaldo Jimenez “found something” sure was fun, wasn’t it? I made the mistake of writing him off once before. I think I learned my lesson. I wouldn’t drink the “Ubaldo is back” kool aid and I won’t say that last night’s return of “Bad Ubaldo” is a complete setback. But what we saw from him was obviously concerning.
This was a big spot for Jimenez, facing off for a second time this season with Tigers ace Justin Verlander. The first time around, he actually outpitched Verlander in a 7-6 Indians win two weeks ago. However last night, the Detroit treated Ubaldo like their personal punching bag. It took no time either.
Andy Dirks led off the game with a sharp single to center and stole second. Torii Hunter then singled to left. Miguel Cabrera continued his hot hitting with a double to the corner in left, scoring Dirks with ease. Prince Fielder then ripped a line shot up the middle that was hit right into the glove of Asdrubal Cabrera, who had shaded Prince that way. The Tigers kept the pressure on and scored their second run on a Victor Martinez sac fly. Jimenez would K Jhonny Peralta to end the inning, but it was clear the Tigers were not going to be done with Ubaldo.
On the other side of it was Verlander who now was staked with a two-run lead. The Indians have had a great approach against him both times they faced him. Getting to Verlander early and being patient against him seems to have a great effect. In the first, the former Cy Young winner struck out both Michael Bourn and Jason Kipnis and it felt like he was not going to be the same guy we saw two weeks ago. But Asdrubal Cabrera doubled off the wall in right and was brought home by Michael Brantley’s single.
In the second, back to back singles by Mark Reynolds and Ryan Raburn got things going again. Raburn’s was an extremely long single, hit to the wall in right and off the glove of Hunter, who probably should have made the catch. Reynolds would score on a one out RBI single by Bourn, which tied the game. Verlander and Kipnis would then put on a great battle; a ten pitch at-bat that was eventually won by the Tigers ace. Kipnis nodded his head as to say “you got me.” Asdrubal walked to load the bases and the Indians had another shot to get more. But Verlander got Brantley on a harmless ground ball.
Still, the Tribe had worked Verlander for 59 pitches in the first two innings. Ubaldo was given new life with a tie score. But like his name was Braylon Edwards, he dropped the ball.
With one out, Jimenez walked Hunter and Cabrera and got smoked by a rocket shot ground rule double off the bat of Fielder. Martinez drove in the Tigers fourth run with his second sacrifice fly in as many innings. Two more RBI doubles from Peralta and Brayan Pena and Detroit had a 6-2 lead.
Ubaldo’s night would be over after four innings. He would give up six runs on seven hits and three walks.
“I didn’t have any command of my fastball or breaking ball,” he said. “I couldn’t throw a breaking ball for a strike. I didn’t have the same release point.”
The problems with Ubaldo’s outing were bad enough, but they were compounded by the brutal relief work of long man David Huff, who most likely has made his last appearance as an Indian. He came on in the fifth to give the Indians some innings, hopefully saving the bullpen a little. To start his evening, the Tigers singled four consecutive times. In the only inning he worked, Huff gave up three runs on four hits. Not exactly minimizing the damage.
Huff is not a major league pitcher and I wouldn’t expect we would see him again. Those runs he allowed would come back to haunt the Indians later.
The one thing we have learned about this Terry Francona led club this season is that they never quit. Trailing 9-2 in the fifth, they could have easily packed it in, but they kept coming. Asdrubal Cabrera hit his second double of the evening against Verlander and was replaced by pinch runner Mike Aviles. Brantley again delivered a quality at-bat, singling in Aviles for the Tribe’s third run. Up next was Carlos Santana, who crushed a two-run shot off of Verlander to inch the Indians even closer.
That is when the rains came. The threatening skies had been there all night long, but the rain had thus far held off. After Verlander struck out DH Jason Giambi, the umpires called for the tarp. The heavy rain began to fall. Some (me) were hoping that the rains never stopped, considering the Indians part of the fifth had not been completed and the game still hadn’t become official. But after an hour and two minutes had past, the game resumed with the Indians trailing 9-5.
Strangely, Verlander returned to get the final two outs in the fifth, making him eligible for the win. Tiger manager Jim Leyland has already seen him throw over 100 pitches and said the layoff wasn’t an issue because Verlander is his “horse.” I think the diva just wanted another win to his credit.
When things turned over to the Tigers bullpen, the Indians offense went back to work. Lefty Drew Smily entered the game and was immediately greeted rudely by a solo blast off the bat of Yan Gomes. The Yanimal was 2-4 on the night and his now hitting .316. After a pair of groundouts, Aviles doubled and scored on yet another Brantley RBI single. They man they call Dr. Smooth just continues his superb run of clutch hitting. The Tribe’s left fielder, hitting cleanup with Nick Swisher on the paternity list, has hit in every spot in the lineup except ninth. It just doesn’t matter, he has the same approach no matter where he is. Brantley has been remarkably consistent, hitting .300/.391/.317 against lefties and .314/.345/.438 against righties. With runners in scoring position, he is a scorching .359/.426/.513 with 22 RBIs. Last night he had three hits and three more runs batted in.
Carlos Santana stepped to the plate, almost unfathomably, as the tying run in the sixth. Smily walked Carlos and took on the veteran Giambi. The Tribe loves his veteran presence in the clubhouse, but the results on the field certainly could be better. Giambi had a chance to either tie the game or put the Tribe on top. He would hit a shot, but it was right at the first baseman Fielder and the threat ended right there.
Bryan Shaw had pitched two scoreless innings of relief to keep the Indians on the cusp of another big time comeback, but then the rains reappeared just before the eighth inning.
“Every time we’d get a little something going, the rain would come and kind of kill things a little bit,” Mark Reynolds said. “It is what it is. You can’t control Mother Nature. We’re going to get out of here and hopefully win some games on the road.”
After the second delay, the Indians weren’t able to get to relievers Joaquin Benoit and Jose Valverde.
Some minor comic relief came just after the game restarted again around 11:30. With one on and one out, Miguel Cabrera hit a deep fly ball off of lefty Rich Hill towards the wall in center. Bourn ran to the wall and got under it, but the ball bounced out of his glove and over the wall for a two-run homer.
Said Bourn: “I don’t know how it came outta there, but it did. And then it bounced over the wall. That’s the thing about it. I could see if it stayed in play, but it went over the wall. It happened. I take the blame for it.”
The 11-7 loss gave the Tigers a sweep of the mini two-game set and sends the Indians off to Boston for a tough four game series with the Red Sox. They maintain their slim half game lead over Detroit for the AL Central lead, but are in the midst of their toughest portion of the schedule. After the trip to Detroit, they have a home and home series with Cincinnati, get a visit from Tampa Bay, then go on the road for a brutal nine-game trip to New York, Detroit, and Texas.
Zach McAllister (3-3, 2.65 ERA) will try to get the Indians back on the winning track in Beantown. He will square off with Ryan Dempster (2-4, 4.27 ERA)
(photo via Chuck Crow, The Plain Dealer)