Covering the Bases: Game 54
Indians 4, Tigers 2
FIRST: Was this the “ace” the Indians thought they acquired when they pulled the trigger on the Ubaldo Jimenez trade last season? Maybe not. But the pitcher that took the mound on Tuesday night sure looked a lot better than the one that has tormented Tribe fans for four months as a key part of the rotation.
The Line for The Big U: 6.2 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 4 K, 1 HBP, 102 (55)
It wasn’t perfect, but it was effective. Jimenez pitched into the seventh and turned in shut-down innings after the offense scored (against a lefty!). He fell behind in counts, but didn’t let it get to him. Ubaldo pitched. He threw strikes when he needed to and trusted his defense.
And it got himself and the team into the win column.
It wasn’t a dominant performance, but it worked. After giving up an RBI double to Miguel Cabrera in the first inning, Jimenez set down 16 of 17 with the lone exception being a bunt single. The key was his ability to limit the traffic on the basepaths. He nearly turned in his first no-walk performance as a member of the Tribe.
“Of course, I walked the last guy,” Jimenez said with a roll of his eyes.
Detroit had its chances. Jimenez fell behind in a 2-0 count eight times and the right-hander found a way to create seven outs in those at-bats. The one exception was the seventh-inning walk. Jimenez also had his second-lowest swinging strike total (four out of 33 swings), just 54% strikes (55-of-102) and 11 first-pitch strikes in 27 plate appearances.
Still, Jimenez found ways to escape harm’s way.
Asked if Jimenez is learning how to take on a better pitch-to-contact approach, manager Manny Acta said:
“I don’t think he has that mentality right now. Right now, his concentration is based on his mechanics and smoothing out his mechanics. You can see how when he’s doing everything right he’s 95-96 mph and then all of a sudden you’ll see a pitch at 91 or a pitch at 92. All that is due to the mechanical adjustments that he’s making. When he’s smooth, he can still sit there at 93-96, which is not too shabby at this level.”
In his last start, Jimenez gave up seven runs in four innings on the road against the White Sox. That was on May 27 — so more than a week ago. Jimenez suffered cramping and fatigue in his left side during that start and the Tribe decided to push his start back to Tuesday.
Jimenez thinks it did him wonders.
“It gave me a break mentally and physically,” Jimenez said. “It gave me a couple more days to rest not only my body, but my mind. I was able to come to the stadium today and just have fun out there. I was not thinking too much or overdoing this or that. I wasn’t stressed.”
SECOND: Defense is often overlooked, but it played a big role in Tuesday’s win. Shin-Soo Choo had a couple great sliding catches in right field — one to end the game after Detroit had already pushed one run across in the ninth. Also in the ninth, Asdrubal Cabrera turned in an early defensive play of the year entry for the Tribe.
With no outs and a runner on first base, Gerald Laird sent a pitch from closer Chris Perez bouncing toward the hole between short and third. Cabrera ran down the ball and — in one smooth motion — grabbed it with his barehand, turned and threw off his back foot to second base for a force out.
Indians reliever Vinnie Pestano (@VinnieP52) tweet: “Cabby going for his second consecutive Golden Hand award. Someone needs to tell him it isnt a real thing #notgonnabeme.”
THIRD: One triple in a game is rare enough. The Indians had at least one triple in only 23 games last year and have had at least one in eight games so far this season. On Tuesday, Cleveland had three three-base hits — one each from Cabrera, Lou Marson and Michael Brantley. Each was an RBI triple.
The Indians hadn’t had three triples in a game since April 7, 2002 at Detroit. They hadn’t had at least three RBI triples in a single game since Aug. 12, 2001 at Texas. Three triples with no other extra-base hits (doubles or homers)? Try July 10, 1966 at Kansas City. That’s when KC was still the Athletics.
HOME: If we’re going to pile on the Indians when they do poorly against left-handed pitching, then we’ve got to tip the ol’ cap when they do well. Cleveland didn’t exactly crush lefty Drew Smyly, but a trio of triples sure went a long way in improving the Indians’ record to 5-12 vs. LH starters this season.
Smyly got off to a great start, striking out the first four hitters he faced. In the first two innings combined, however, the Indians and Tigers combined to go 1-for-13 at the plate. Might there have been something else at play beyond just stellar pitching?
“It’s very hard to see here the first couple innings,” Brantley said. “It’s very bright. There’s a big shadow that kind of covers the pitcher just before second base and then there’s a very bright background. So there’s a little bit of an adjustment period, but when the sun went down it was easier to see.”
Indians (29-25) at Tigers (25-30)
at 7:05 p.m. ET on Wednesday at Comerica Park
American League Central
1. White Sox: 31-24
2. Indians: 29-25 (1.5)
3. Tigers: 25-30 (6)
4. Royals: 24-30 (6.5)
5. Twins: 21-34 (10)