Ubaldo Jimenez is so funny. He spends weeks and even months convincing us all that he doesn’t deserve to be in the Indians rotation. He frustrates. He makes us want to boo. Some of us even wrote an entire piece calling for his ouster from the roster. But here is the thing. The options for the Indians in terms of starting pitchers are dwindling by the day. Even if they wanted to, they couldn’t get rid of Ubaldo. Not with injuries to Brett Myers and Carlos Carrasco. Corey Kluber is already here. Trevor Bauer, Wednesday’s spot starter, is essentially the last remaining realistic choice for GM Chris Antonetti to call on. So Ubaldo has to perform.
My neighbor has told me for years “if you go in with low expectations, then you usually come out pleasantly surprised.” That was exactly where I was last night, and where I am at this point every single time Ubaldo takes the mound. The Indians truly have no idea which guy is going to show up. Will he last two innings, have zero command, walk everything in sight, and give up the big hits? Will he last five innings? Would he dare surprise everyone and actually make it past the sixth, something he had done just twice since June 16th of last year? Would he actually win a road start for the first time in 11 months?
With the opportunity to come way from this three-city, week and a half long road trip with a winning record, Jimenez would have to show out. He did that last night and more. I would be hard-pressed to find a better Ubaldo performance in Wahoo Red, White, and Blue than what I witnessed last night. The line speaks for itself.
Seven Innings. No Runs. Three Hits. Two Walks. Four Strikeouts.
“You’re always looking to be encouraged, but I think we flew past encouraged and got excited,” said manager Terry Francona.
Two of the three hits allowed came to start the eighth inning. Jimenez was hitting 94-95 on the gun with his fastball consistently and was in the strike zone all night. The command that is always missing was there. He had not one, not two, but FOUR pitches working. To put it plain and simple, he was fantastic. You had to wonder to yourself, who is that man in the #38 jersey? Now if we could only bottle this up and use it the rest of the season, it would give the Indians a completely different dimension.
“That felt really good out there,” said Jimenez. “Those extra couple days really helped my arm. I was able to throw everything for a strike. In the bullpen, my fastball was really running. We felt we had to take advantage of that.”
Also working in Ubaldo’s favor, was the Indians seemingly revitalized offensive attack. Maybe they got it out of their collective system in Sunday afternoon’s shutout loss. The night cap Sunday produced a 10 spot. The carryover was evident right from the jump.
Facing former Tampa Bay Ray Wade Davis, the Tribe got on the board with one out in the first. The slumping Jason Kipnis, who I openly said needed a night off, naturally homered. It was his first of the year. The Wahoos should have done more damage, but were derailed before they could bust things open. Asdrubal Cabrera walked and Nick Swisher singled. With two on and one out, they seemed to be in business. Mark Reynolds followed with a sharp single up the middle and for some reason, new third base coach Brad Mills sent Cabrera. He was easily gunned down by Lorenzo Cain. Why you send someone in the first inning in that spot with the AL’s batting leader in Carlos Santana up next is a little head-scratching, but I digress. Santana K’d to end the threat, but the Tribe put Davis on notice. They were coming at him hard in this one.
In the third, Michael Brantley laced a gap shot double and was brought home on Asdrubal’s one out RBI single. Cabrera is starting to really heat up, which is a GREAT sign for the Tribe. With a 2-0 lead and Ubaldo cruising through four, the Indians were about to do in Davis.
With one out in the fifth, Brantley again doubled, this time down the right field line. Kipnis then walked. Cabrera again stepped up in a run producing situation and delivered with the second double of the inning. After a Swisher ground out, Reynolds came through with a monster two-out RBI single. Santana kept the line moving with another double scoring yet another two-out run. At 5-0, the death blow was delivered not by Brody (get the reference?) but by Ryan Raburn, who tattooed a three-run, back-breaking bomb to left that ended Davis’s night.
Raburn would finish the night 4-4 with two homers and four RBIs. He entered the game with one RBI in 42 ABs and raised his average from .214 to .283.
“It was a good night,” said Raburn. “It was fun. We just try to do whatever we can to help the ballclub, whether it’s one hit, a walk, getting a runner over, anything. Anything like this is always special.
Two other Indians who have really begun to cook are Brantley and Cabrera. Dr. Smooth started this trip with a 0-4 night in Houston, but since has gone 13-41 (.311). Asdrubal is riding an eight-game hitting streak, where he has 12 hits in 29 at bats (.414).
Give credit to Nick Hagadone for coming into the eighth inning with men on the corners and nobody out and preserving the shutout for Jimenez. He and Cody Allen were both impressive closing things out and making it look easy.
The anemic offense which couldn’t seem to get out of its own way on this trip, has scored 19 runs on 28 hits in the past two games. The starting pitcher who was another bad start of two from being shipped out, pitched seven scoreless innings.
When you can figure out the game of baseball, please let me know. It was a 5-4 trip for the Indians, yet it seemed like they went 2-7 didn’t it? The highs were real high and the lows were very low. Francona’s club is now 7-2 when they score four or more runs in a game. They are 3-11 when they don’t (hat tip to the great Jacob Rosen for this stat).
The Indians finally return home and will play their first interleague games of the season. It will be the Philadelphia Phillies who come to Cleveland for a two-game set. Things open with Zach McAllister (1-3, 3.52 ERA) facing off with Roy Halladay (2-2, 5.08 ERA).
(AP Photo/Reed Hoffmann)