Baseball is a funny game. Over the course of several games, weeks, or even months a pitcher can begin to instill confidence in a fan base. We begin to develop certain expectations and when those expectations are continually met, we’re happy. So happy, in fact, that we tend to forget all about any of the bad that might have preceded it. That is until that one game. That one game where it all hits the fan and we’re reminded of every single flaw in a pitcher’s arsenal.
For Ubaldo Jimenez, that game was yesterday.
Heading into yesterday’s game against the Blue Jays, Jimenez had been on an impressive stretch. Over his last seven starts he had posted a 2.93 ERA in 46 innings while striking out 44 and only walking 16 during that stretch. He was routinely pitching into the seventh inning and was finally looking like the pitcher everyone hoped he would be. It was a complete 180 from where Jimenez was to start the year. Then the Blue Jays roughed him up for 8 runs over 2.1 innings.
Jimenez’s biggest problem was walks. He gave them up early, he gave them up often, and they came back to bite him in a big way. In the bottom of the first, walks to Colby Rasmus and Jose Bautista resulted in runs when Adam Lind hit a double to right. It put the Blue Jays up 2-0 and set the tone for what was about to be a very short day for Jimenez.
The Indians responded in the top half of the second, just not as well as they could have. After loading the bases against former Indian Aaron Laffey with no outs, the Indians plated a pair thanks to Shelley Duncan being hit by a pitch and a Casey Kotchman double play ground ball to short stop. While it evened things at 2-2, it was disappointing that the Indians weren’t able to take better advantage of the situation. Jimenez would labor his way through the bottom frame, allowing two more walks, but would escape unscathed.
In the bottom of the third the Indians wouldn’t be as fortunate. Bautista led things off with a double to right. He was followed by Edwin Encarnacion, a once a highly regarded prospect with the Reds who has really found a home with the Blue Jays. Encarnacion hit a laser to left that was still going up when it landed in the stands to give the Jays a 4-3 lead. Lind followed with a single and scored on a home run by Yunel Escobar to make it 6-2. The Jays weren’t done. Kelly Johnson doubled to center and stole third. J.P. Arencibia followed with a double two batters later to chase Jimenez from the game and make it 7-2.
Scott Barnes took the mound looking to stop the bleeding with one out, but he wouldn’t fare much better. Brett Lawrie greeted him with a double to right, officially closing the book on Jimenez for the day. His line, 2.1 innings, 7 hits, 4 walks, 2 strikeouts, 8 runs, and 2 home runs. After striking out Rasmus, Barnes loaded the bases and then surrendered a two run single to Lind. When the inning finally had come to the end, the Blue Jays had staked themselves to a 10-2 lead.
The Indians made a valiant effort over the next six innings, but it was all for naught. They responded in the top of the fourth thanks to a two run homer from Duncan, his ninth of the year. It cut the Toronto lead to 10-4 until the bottom of the fifth. In that frame, Encarnacion struck again sending a solo shot out to left center off of Jeremy Accardo to make it 11-4.Things remained surprisingly silent until the top of the eighth.
Still trailing 11-4, Carlos Santana walked and Michael Brantely hit his fourth homer of the year to make it 11-6. Duncan followed with a single and walked home thanks to a Kotchman home run to right field to cut the Blue Jays lead to 11-8. A few batters later, Travis Hafner, pinch hitting for Jose Lopez, singled and scored Asdrubal Cabrera to make it an 11-9 game. Santana flew out to end the inning, the threat, and the best chance the Indians had to tie things up. Casey Janssen shut the door on the Indians in the ninth in order, setting up a rubber match for later this afternoon.
With the loss, Jimenez’s record fell to 8-8 on the year. However, the Indians didn’t lose any ground in the AL Central race. Loses by both the White Sox and the Tigers kept everything as is for another day.
The Good: The Indians offense was able to put up nine runs which is always good. It was even better given the fact they fell behind 10-2 after three innings. They could have mailed it in, but they didn’t. they fought and battled their way back to put some pressure on the Blue Jays by making it a two run game.
The Bad: Ubaldo Jimenez was awful. On a day when the Indians were able to score nine runs, this should have been an easy win. Unfortunately, Jimenez couldn’t command the strike zone and when he did find the plate, the Blue Jays hit the ball hard and far. Hopefully this is only a minor hiccup and Jimenez is able to put it behind him and bounce back.
Also, even though they were good for putting up nine runs, the Indians offense is also part of the bad, particularly in the second inning. They have to do a better job of scoring when they get the bases loaded with no one out. The Blue Jays tried to serve them up a huge inning, but they couldn’t take advantage. Turn that into a six or seven run inning and maybe the Blue Jays don’t bounce back and maybe Jimenez gets some pressure taken off of him.
The “Huh?”: Sunday is typically a day when managers rest their regulars. Why then did Manny Acta decided to rest Travis Hafner, DH Carlos Santana, and bat Jose Lopez in the cleanup spot on a Saturday? Here’s a better question; why did Travis Hafner need a day off one game into the second half of the season. The Indians just had four days off for the All-Star break. I understand they were facing a lefty and wanting to stack the lineup with righties, but it’s not as if Aaron Laffey is Randy Johnson. Acta might have been better served leaving Hafner in the lineup.