The Ubaldo Jimenez who was so masterful against the Texas Rangers missed the team flight to Boston. The Red Sox (13-19) battered this version of Jimenez and knocked him out of the game after 4.1 innings en route to an 7-5 victory over the Indians (18-14). He left after yielding seven runs (all earned) on nine hits, and when the Red Sox weren’t hitting him he was aiding their cause by giving up five walks (against only four strikeouts), hitting a batter, and uncorking a wild pitch.
Trying to describe Jimenez’s struggles tonight would only resemble the print equivalent of the Aflac Duck having a conversation with Yogi Berra. Obviously we are going to spend the summer holding our breath every time he takes the mound—sometimes he’ll be good, sometimes not so good, and sometimes awful. It is impossible to know what the ratio of each type of start is going to be so the only thing to do from now on is hope for the best.
The one big positive to take away from this game was that the Indians never gave up. They put up good at-bats, put the ball in play, and kept plugging the bases only to let the Red Sox’ bullpen off the ropes time and time again.
Things looked good for the Indians in the first inning as they jumped out to a 1-0 lead on an RBI single off the bat of Carlos Santana and then got the bases loaded with two outs before Clay Buchholz got Michael Brantley to ground out to end the threat.
The Red Sox took the lead right back in the bottom of the first. It started with a defensive swing of the bat by Dustin Pedroia which resulted in an infield hit. Jimenez walked David Ortiz on four pitches and uncorked a wild pitch that moved both runners into scoring position. Jimenez loaded the bases by hitting Adrian Gonzalez to load the bases for Will Middlebrooks, who delivered a two-run double.
The Indians threatened in the top of the second but Jack Hannahan was unable to get around Red Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who did a tremendous job of blocking the plate on Jason Kipnis‘ would-be RBI single. Indians third base coach Steve Smith vehemently protested and was immediately ejected, but replay showed that the call was correct.
The Red Sox extended their lead to 4-1 in the bottom of the inning on a two-run double by Dustin Pedroia, scoring Nick Punto and Ryan Sweeney, who had led off the inning with back-to-back singles. The Red Sox threatened in the third and fourth innings but Jimenez escaped both jams unscathed.
He wasn’t so lucky in the fifth, though. Daniel Nava walked to lead off the inning and came around to score on an RBI double by Cody Ross to give the Red Sox a 5-1 lead. Ross advanced to third on a Saltalamacchia groundout to second. Manny Acta then brought the infield in and got the ground ball he was looking for off the bat of Nick Punto, but despite his being clearly out Punto was called safe to put runners on the corners with one out. Sweeney delivered a RBI single to score Ross and knock Jimenez out of the game. Dan Wheeler then gave up a sacrifice fly to Dustin Pedroia to score Punto from third and give the Red Sox a 7-1 lead.
The Indians rallied with three runs in the seventh. Johnny Damon and Kipnis singled with one out and Asdrubal Cabrera walked to load the bases. Rich Hill came out of the bullpen and walked Travis Hafner to cut the Red Sox lead to 7-2. Carlos Santana followed with a bullet to Middlebrooks, who was unable to handle the hot shot as Cabrera raced home. Brantley then smoked a single to left, scoring Kipnis from third to cut the lead to 7-4 before Casey Kotchman grounded out to end the inning.
The Indians scored again off closer Alfredo Aceves in the ninth—Carlos Santana led off with a walk and advanced to second on indifference and came around to score on a Michael Brantley single—but it was not enough as the Tribe fell, 7-5.
The Good: Although the Indians put only five runs on the scoreboard—a respectable number, to be sure—they pressured the Red Sox throughout the game with 12 hits and six walks while only striking out once on the evening. That they were able to bring the tying run to the plate in the seventh, eighth, and ninth innings after being down 7-1 is incredible. Travis Hafner, Jason Kipnis, and Jack Hannahan all helped the effort with multi-hit games.
The Bad: Obviously Ubaldo Jimenez‘ performance lands here, but we’ll just look at his first-inning blues. His inability to control the ball resulted in a 31-pitch inning (he got only 16 strikes) in which he surrendered two runs runs on two hits, while issuing two walks, throwing a wild pitch, and hitting a batter. It was pretty clear from the get-go that he didn’t have his best stuff.
It was also frustrating that no one was able to deliver the clutch hit. With the bases loaded with two out in the first Michael Brantley grounded out to first, and with men at second and third with two down he flew out to left fielder Daniel Nava two innings later. Meanwhile, Casey Kotchman grounded out to first with the bases loaded and two out in the seventh, Travis Hafner struck out with runners at second and third with two out in the eighth, and Johnny Damon flew out to center with men at in the same scenario in the ninth.
The “Huh?”: Game scenario: The Indians were rallying and had the bases loaded trailing 7-4 in the top of the seventh and the Red Sox had lefty Andrew Miller on the mound with fellow left-hander Casey Kotchman—he of the .194/.279/.286 triple-slash—due up. Shelley Duncan, who has been basically relegated to the bench since Johnny Damon got called up, is a right-handed batter who’s hitting .278/.372/.528 with two doubles and three doubles in 45 plate appearances.
Why did Acta not pinch hit for Kotchman in that situation? Why is Shelley Duncan even on the roster if he’s not going to be used in a situation like that?