Quality starts have been few and far between for Tribe starter Ubaldo Jimenez.
Tuesday proved different for the right-hander, as he and the Indians shutout the Toronto Blue Jays, 3-0 for their eleventh shutout of the year.
“This was a nice bounce back win,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “We didn’t do a lot offensively, but we played a crisp game and again, it starts with pitching.”
Pitching was the name of the game on both sides, as the Tribe offense managed only two runs on three hits against Toronto starter Josh Johnson (1-4, 4.62 ERA). But it was Indians starter Ubaldo Jimenez that would hold the upper hand against the two-time All-Star.
Surrendering five hits through six shutout innings, Jimenez was able to go a full six frames for the first time since June 1.
“There was some traffic for the better part of the night, but he pitched around some things and he never let it spiral or get out of hand,” Francona said. “There were a lot of things to like.”
Rain caused the start of the ballgame to be delayed 36 minutes, and for a while, it looked as though that played well for the Blue Jays. Johnson retired the first nine batters he faced before running into trouble in the fourth.
After the right-hander walked Asdrubal Cabrera to lead off the inning, Cleveland struck for two runs as Jason Kipnis and Michael Brantley hit back-to-back RBI singles to give the Tribe the early lead.
Those two runs essentially would be all the run support Jimenez needed, as the team has now won three of the first four meetings with Toronto.
Cody Allen relieved Jimenez with a scoreless seventh inning, and has quietly become one of the top relievers in the league.
“He’s a little bit like Michael Brantley in the batting order,” Francona said of Allen. “We’ve kind of pitched him all over. He’s very valuable. For a young kid, the game rarely speeds up on him and that will only get better with experience.”
Cabrera gave the Tribe a late insurance run in the eighth with a sacrifice fly off Blue Jays reliever Steve Delabar, before closer Chris Perez notched his tenth save in the ninth.
Jimenez put up solid numbers so far in the first half, improving to 7-4 on the season with a 4.37 ERA in 18 starts. In his last nine starts, the right-hander is 3-1 with a 2.88 ERA.
“He’s done a pretty darn good job,” Francona said. “He should be proud of himself. “It’s not easy to comeback after what happened last year.”
The Blue Jays connected on eight hits in the game, but couldn’t get a run across going 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position.
Coming into the game batting .219 with runners in scoring position their last four games, the Tribe went 2-for-4 with RISP.
With the win, Cleveland (47-43) move just 2 1/2 games in back of the Detroit Tigers for first place in the A.L. Central.
“I thought the last two games of the Detroit series we played extremely well,” Allen said.
“I didn’t necessarily we got off track. Tonight was a great win against a good team, pitched well from inning one to nine. Every inning is important no matter where it is in the game.”
The Tribe also improves to 21-2 when leading after the sixth inning at Progressive Field.
Notes: Prior to Tuesday’s game, Francona announced right-handed pitcher Danny Salazar will make his major league debut Thursday against Toronto. In 10 starts at Triple-A Columbus, Salazar is 3-2 with a 3.40 ERA in 42 1/3 innings. The 23-year-old was signed as a non-drafted free agent back in 2006.