A solid start from Ubaldo Jimenez and a clutch home run from Mark Reynolds turned a near-heartbreaking game into an extra-innings win as the Cleveland Indians (2-0) beat the Toronto Blue Jays (0-2) 3-2 in 11 innings Wednesday night.
After two relatively quiet innings to open the game (Michael Brantley and Carlos Santana led off the second with back-to-back singles, but Brandon Morrow struck out the side to kill the rally), the Indians broke through in the third. Michael Bourn led off with a double, then moved to third on Asdrubal Cabrera‘s flyout. Nick Swisher‘s walk put runners at the corners with two outs for Brantley, who delivered with an RBI single to make it 1-0 Cleveland. Unfortunately, the lead didn’t last; Maicer Izturis took Jimenez deep to lead off the bottom of the third and tie the game at 1-1.
Neither team scored in the fourth through seventh, though the Indians got two runners on with one out in each of the sixth and seventh innings to no avail. Then in the eighth a Maicer Iztruris throwing error on what should have been a double-play ball got Brantley across the plate to make it 2-1 Tribe. All seemed well—Jimenez, Bryan Shaw, and Vinnie Pestano all combined to keep Toronto’s bats quiet for five straight innings—until the ninth, when Chris Perez served up a meatball to Jose Bautista for a one-out game-tying home run that sent it into extras.
After an uneventful 10th inning, Mark Reynolds led off the 11th with a towering solo shot off Sergio Santos to put the Indians back on top. Joe Smith set the Jays down 1-2-3 as the Tribe held on for a 3-2 win.
The Good: Let’s start with Ubaldo Jimenez. He might not have looked like an ace and there were times when it seemed like he just couldn’t avoid falling behind in the count, but the biggest enigma on the roster held one of the best teams in the league to a run on three hits in six quality innings. He even struck out six Blue Jays and—best of all—gave up only two walks. It’s only one game but it was great to see such a strong performance from him.
Meanwhile, at the plate, Michael Brantley had a huge game, going 4-for-5 with an RBI and a run scored. Nick Swisher went 1-for-3 with two walks, Carlos Santana got two hits, and of course Mark Reynolds hit a clutch game-winning home run.
The Bad: Chris Perez. There’s no shame in giving up a home run to Jose Bautista, but that doesn’t mean he’s off the hook for throwing maybe the most powerful hitter in baseball a fastball right where he’s looking for it when your team is clinging to a one-run lead in the ninth inning. Give him credit for containing the damage, though.
The “Huh?”: With a runner at second and two outs in the top of the eighth, Lonnie Chisenhall stepped to the plate against left-handed pitcher Darren Oliver. It didn’t ultimately end up mattering that Chisenhall flew out to end the inning, but in a close game why not pinch-hit for the left-handed Chisenhall with the right-handed Mike Aviles, whose job is at least partially to sub in for the Indians’ infielders against southpaw pitchers?
Interesting Tidbit: This was the first time Ubaldo Jimenez had given up fewer than four hits in a start since May 6, 2012.