Covering the Bases: Game 74

Final:

Yankees 5, Indians 4

FIRST: Ubaldo Jimenez had a plan against Robinson Cano and the Indians starter executed it just the way he wanted. There are times, though, when great hitters do not fall prey to such strategy.

In the sixth inning, with one out and a runner on first base, Jimenez fired a first-pitch fastball for a strike and then got Cano to chase a splitter in the dirt. Down 0-2, Cano was at a disadvantage and Jimenez went after the second baseman with a sound plan.

“I was trying to go a little bit inside and trying to get him off the plate,” Jimenez said, “and then go with a breaking ball outside.”

Jimenez then smirked and let out a slight laugh, the kind that stems from helplessness rather than seeing any humor in the situation.

“I did it,” Jimenez said with a shrug. “I executed, but it didn’t happen this time.”

The 0-2 offering — a 92-mph fastball — carried high and tight and knocked Cano back a few steps. The second baseman shook it off, stepped back in and then received a backdoor slider. Cano stayed with the pitch and gave a flick of his wrists.

Two-run home run to left field.

“He’s a guy who uses the whole field,” Indians manager Manny Acta said. “That’s what good hitters do. He doesn’t let this ballpark influence him, because of the short porch and trying to pull everything. He’s able to do that. Good hitters are able to do that and that was an example of it.”

Jimenez said it wasn’t a mistake pitch. Cano simply beat him.

“He’s a great hitter,” Jimenez said. “We were trying to throw a backdoor slider, and it was. It was a backdoor slider and it was even off the plate. I saw the replay. He was able to just to hang in there. You could even see he hit it with one arm, and he hit it out.

“That was a really good pitcher’s pitch. He’s a really good hitter. He’s a great hitter. Right now, he’s hitting everything.”

Indeed. Cano has homered in seven of his last 10 games, hitting .389 with 11 RBIs over that strong stretch. Over his last 21 games, Cano has hit at a .373 clip with 10 home runs and 17 RBIs for the Yankees.

SECOND: Acta said the pitch to Cano was  one of two mistakes made by Jimenez in his six-inning performance. The other was a two-out walk to Raul Ibanez in the fourth inning. Eric Chavez followed that with a two-run double. Even so, it was a solid effort for the Tribe’s pitcher.

“He threw well, man,” Acta sad. “It’s been five in a row now. We’re very, very happy to see Justin [Masterson] and Ubaldo have five straight good starts. That what we’ve wanted, our No. 1 and No. 2 guy throwing the ball like that.”

In his last five outings, Jimenez has fashioned a 2.78 ERA with 32 strikeouts against 11 walks in 32 1/3 innings. Opposing hitters have posted a .210 (25-for-119) batting average against the righty in that span.

THIRD: It seemed a bit curious that Acta had Lonnie Chisenhall pinch hit for a struggling Carlos Santana in the ninth inning. Was Acta trying to send Santana a message? No. Following the game, Acta noted that Santana was pulled as a precaution due to mid-back tightness. The catcher said it’s related to the right rib cage soreness he’s dealt with for a couple of days now.

Santana will be re-evaluated on Thursday in Baltimore, but there’s a good chance he’ll be given the day off. The O’s are throwing lefty Wei-Yin Chen (7-3, 3.38) at the Tribe and Santana has hit just .200 (14-for-70) vs. southpaws this season. Beyond that, Santana has gone 1-for-16 on the current trip and 14-for-93 (.151) in his last 27 games, dating back to May 18.

HOME: The Indians have lost a season-high five games in a row and are now 1-6 on this road trip with four games to play. Cleveland (37-37) is 11-19 since being a season-best eight games over .500 on May 24, and the team is back at the break-even mark for the first time since April 18 (5-5).

“Tell me something positive,” you say?

Sure thing.

Over their last 10 innings, the Indians have hit .293 (12-for-41) as a team with a .357 (5-for-14) showing with runners in scoring position and eight runs scored. In the 44 innings prior to that stretch, Cleveland hit .176 (26-for-149) with a .100 (3-for-30) mark with RISP and only five runs scored.

That’s why the Indians left their latest loss feeling a little encouraged.

“I think it was a step in the right direction,” Jason Kipnis said. “It thought we played better today. We’re getting closer to playing more of a complete game. I thought Ubaldo still pitched great. We’ve just got to have more consistent at-bats. We just haven’t been hitting with runners in scoring position.

“We just need to not force the issue, not try to hit the home run or anything like that. Just stay through the ball and just put it in play and see what happens. If we don’t strike out and we don’ttry to hit a home run, we usually have good at-bats.”

While hardly satisfied or content, Acta felt like he saw improvement.

“We battled hard up until the end, but we still fell short,” Acta said. “We played better — better baseball. I really liked the at-bats that we had today, especially at the end, that last push that we gave against [Rafael] Soriano [in the ninth inning].

“It’s encouraging. The guys understand we’re going through a tough stretch right now. We’ve just got to ride it out. You’ve just got to continue to keep your head up, play hard and snap out of it.”

On deck:

Indians (37-37) at Orioles (41-32)*
at 7:05 p.m. ET Thursday at Camden Yards

*Wednesday’s result not included

–JB

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