A strong start from Ubaldo Jimenez and some timely hitting were just what the Indians needed Sunday as Cleveland (15-11) won the rubber match of a three-game home series against the Texas Rangers (18-10), 4-2.
It took two-and-a-half innings for either team to get on the board as both Jimenez and Yu Darvish looked strong on the mound. The Indians opened the scoring in the bottom of the third as Asdrubal Cabrera‘s two-run double played Johnny Damon and Jason Kipnis. Darvish reached back and struck out both Travis Hafner and Carlos Santana, but Cabrera scored with two outs as Elvis Andrus flubbed the play on Shin-Soo Choo‘s infield single to make it 3-0 Tribe.
The Indians added an insurance run in the fifth via Kipnis’ solo home run—his fifth of the season—to Cleveland a 4-0 lead. The score stood still until Tony Sipp got into a jam in the eighth. Ian Kinsler led off with a single and Andrus followed with a double; a Josh Hamilton groundout and a Michael Young single later, the score was 4-2 and the tying run was on deck with just one out.
Sipp struck out David Murphy, then Vinnie Pestano came in and ended the inning by fanning Nelson Cruz. Chris Perez pitched a scoreless ninth for the save and that was that as the Indians handed Darvish the first loss of his MLB career.
The Good: He still hasn’t found his 2010 form, but we saw real progress from Ubaldo Jimenez Sunday. He shut out the potent Rangers offense, limiting Texas to two hits (plus five walks) while racking up six strikeouts in seven frames. Not bad for a pitcher who seemed to suffer a complete meltdown his last time out.
Kudos are also due to the Indians’ offense. Four runs might not sound that impressive, but against a pitcher like Darvish that’s fantastic. Especially since he racked up 11 punchouts in just six innings of work—a testament to just how good his stuff is.
The Bad: Tony Sipp just can’t seem to get it done out of the ‘pen this year. This wasn’t the first time he’s looked shaky on the mound, and his ERA is now up to 9.00. Had he repeated his performance (two runs on three hits in two-thirds of an inning) in a slightly higher-leverage situation he would have earned his AL-leading fifth Meltdown of 2012.
Much as I hate to be the raincloud here, it’s also worth noting that Jimenez walked five batters in seven innings of work. That’s not a sustainable pace for a successful MLB pitcher.
The “Huh?”: Shin-Soo Choo hit sixth again Sunday—far too low for a hitter of his caliber. With Jason Kipnis and Asdrubal Cabrera hitting so well out of the Nos. 2 and 3 holes it makes sense to leave them where they are for now. But why is Choo relegated to the bottom half of the order while Johnny Damon—a similar hitter to Choo, but not as good in any respect—hits leadoff?
Interesting Tidbit: The last time Ubaldo Jimenez walked fewer than three batters in an outing was September 21, 2011 against the White Sox.