Created on Wednesday, 10 July 2013 Written by JIM INGRAHAM jingraham@MorningJournal.com @jitribeinsider,writer
CLEVELAND — Pssst — don’t look now but Ubaldo Jimenez is 7-4.
Tuesday night Jimenez and three relievers combined on the Indians’ American League-leading 11th shutout of the season as the Tribe blanked the Toronto Blue Jays 3-0.
It’s the Indians’ eighth win of the year in a game they scored three or fewer runs _ they are 8-29 in such games — and this one came at a good time, with the Indians trying to recover from losing three of four in their weekend series with division rival Detroit.
“This was a nice bounce back win,” Tribe manager Terry Francona said. “We didn’t do a lot offensively be we played a nice crisp game.”
Even with Jimenez on the mound.
His starts can frequently be grinding, grueling, gruesome endurance tests, but a win’s a win, and here’s a partial list of pitchers who have fewer wins than Jimenez this year:
Matt Cain, Homer Bailey, Doug Fister, Andy Pettitte, Chris Sale, Stephen Strasburg, Tim Lincecum and James Shields.
“He’s done a very good job in the first half,” Francona said. “He should be proud of himself. Last year was not an easy one for him. But he’s giving us a chance to win every time he goes out there. We’ll take that.”
Jimenez, a 17-game loser last year, pitched six innings of Tuesday’s shutout, out-pitching Toronto starter Josh Johnson, which is saying something. Johnson gave up two runs and three hits in the fourth inning but held the Indians hitless and scoreless in the other six innings he pitched. All that got Johnson was a loss, dropping his record to 1-4.
Most of Jimenez’s starts this season have a similar theme: five or six innings and100 or so pitches. It’s just a matter of whether the Indians are winning or losing after his 100 pitches.
Tuesday night they were winning.
Jimenez has had a weird season. It frequently seems like he’s pitching worse than he is. His biggest problem is that he tends to overwork the bullpen on days he pitches because he only averages about five innings per start.
On the other hand, there is this: In his last 14 starts, which dates to April 29, Jimenez has a record of 7-2 and a 3.13 ERA.
“I’m two times better than I was last year,” he said. “Last year I was lost with my mechanics, and wasn’t helping the team. This year I haven’t been as consistent as I’d like but I compete with what I have every five days.”
Facing a Toronto lineup that ranks second in the American League in home runs, Jimenez pitched six scoreless innings on five hits. He struck out four and walked two.
Toronto’s 2-3-4 hitters, Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and Adam Lind — who have 54 homers between them — were 1-for-8 vs. Jimenez.
“There was some traffic on the bases the better part of the night, but he pitched around it and never let things get out of hand,” Francona said.
The Indians, meanwhile, didn’t exactly pound huge lumps on Johnson, but the Tribe did enough damage, and Jimenez pitched well enough, for the Indians to win.
Johnson overpowered Indians hitting in the early going, retiring the first 10 batters he faced until Asdrubal Cabrera drew a one out walk in the fourth inning.
That walk sparked a two-run rally because it was followed by three consecutive singles. Jason Kipnis singled Cabrera to second. Nick Swisher then stroked a single to right that scored Cabrera and sent Kipnis to third.
That was followed by another single to right, by Michael Brantley, scoring Swisher to make it 2-0.
Jimenez was in trouble in five of the six innings he pitched. The only clean inning he had was the sixth, when he retired the side in order. In the other five innings he allowed seven base runners on five hits and two walks. But he managed to get important outs when he needed them.
Jimenez retired the side in order in the sixth inning, and then turned the game over to the bullpen, mostly because his pitch count had reached 105.
“In a perfect world he goes seven,” Francona said, “but it’s not always a perfect world.”
Cody Allen pitched around a leadoff single to record a scoreless eighth inning. Joe Smith worked a scoreless eighth and Chris Perez put the car in the garage in the ninth to pick up his 10th save.
The Indians third run came in the eighth inning off reliever Steve Delabar. Drew Stubbs doubled, went to third on a sacrifice bunt by Michael Bourn and scored on a sacrifice fly by Cabrera.