Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 6/23/12

The Cleveland Indians got a strong pitching performance from an unexpected source Friday in beating the Astros 2-0 in Houston. The winning pitcher was Ubaldo Jimenez, who came into the game with a 6.21 ERA in seven road starts, but pitched 6 2/3 scoreless innings to get the win.

It was a nice way for the Indians to begin a challenging 10-game trip that will take them from Houston to New York to play the Yankees, and then to Baltimore. It was also another step forward for Jimenez, who has struggled with his consistency for much of the 2012 season but finally appears to be on a roll.

Despite having a winning record, Jimenez came into the game with a 5.00 ERA in his first 13 starts. However, he has been much better in his last four, all in the month of June. His win Friday improved Jimenez's record to 7-5 and lowered his ERA to 4.59.

"Early in the year when his command wasn't there, as soon as guys got on base he unraveled," manager Manny Acta said. "Now, he doesn't panic. When somebody gets on base, he makes pitches."

In four starts in June, Jimenez is 2-1 with a 2.05 ERA. He has looked a lot closer to being the pitcher the Indians thought they were trading for nearly a year ago, when they sent four minor-league prospects to Colorado for the 28-year-old right-hander.

Jimenez's improved starts come at an opportune time for a couple of reasons. One of those is that the Indians play just eight games at home in June, and they have already played them. All of their remaining games this month are on the road. The other reason is that No. 1 starter Justin Masterson, who pitched a three-hitter in an 8-1 win over Cincinnati on Thursday, is also pitching the best he has pitched all season.

In order for the Indians to remain a contender, they are going to need the leadership from the top of the rotation that Masterson and Jimenez can provide. With both pitchers now pitching better than they have all year, that bodes well for the Indians on this road trip.

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