An onslaught of solo home runs and a surprisingly decent start from Ubaldo Jimenez were the story of Sunday’s 5-4 win against the Astros.
Initially, Jimenez seemed as though he were on track to have yet another rough outing. He managed to limit the damage to just four earned runs, though, and the Tribe’s offense came through with just enough support to win the game.
After a leadoff walk to Jose Altuve in the first inning, Fernando Martinez homered on the first pitch he saw from Jimenez to give the Astros a 2-0 lead. Jason Castro followed with a single and it looked like Jimenez was in trouble before even recording an out, but Drew Stubbs put a stop to that: Brandon Laird hit a long fly ball to center field, and Stubbs made a running catch before firing it back to the infield. Castro, who had thought the ball would drop in for a hit, tried to race back to first base but couldn’t make it in time. Santana tagged him out for the double play, and Jimenez worked out of the inning with minimal damage.
With two out in the second inning, Yan Gomes launched a solo homer to left field off of Houston starter Erik Bedard. The Indians tied the game in the following inning when Carlos Santana doubled to center field and then scored on a single from Ryan Raburn.
The Tribe continued to blast home runs off of the Astros’ bullpen, including two more solo shots off of left-hander Brett Oberholtzer. Santana hit one to left to lead off the fifth inning, and Stubbs followed in the sixth inning with a one-out blast to right field that landed in a fan’s bucket of popcorn. Rick Ankiel nearly robbed Stubbs of the homer, but missed by inches.
Meanwhile, Jimenez set down the Astros in order for four straight innings, striking out four batters in the process. The Indians lead 4-2 heading into the bottom of the sixth. But after retiring 14 straight, Jimenez started to labor again. Marwin Gonzalez led off the inning with a base hit to left, and Jimenez was forced to pitch from the stretch. Ryan Raburn misplayed a hard-hit ball to right field, giving Altuve an RBI triple and cutting the Tribe’s lead to 4-3.
Terry Francona wasn’t taking any chances Sunday, and he immediately pulled Jimenez in favor of left-hander Nick Hagadone. He was able to get two quick outs, but Altuve scored on a sacrifice fly from pinch-hitter Chris Carter to tie the game. Hagadone proceeded to walk his next two batters before Francona took him out of the game as well. Cody Allen came on to record the final out, and was credited with the win.
The game wasn’t tied for long. Mark Reynolds hit a two-out solo home run in the seventh to give the Indians the lead again. It gave Francona a rare chance to use his late-inning bullpen trio, and despite two hits off of Joe Smith and another off Vinnie Pestano in the eighth, the Astros failed to score against them.
Chris Perez, who entered in the ninth for the save, provided plenty of drama. He gave up a double to center field, hit Astros third-baseman Matt Dominguez, and allowed a sacrifice bunt before issuing an intentional walk to Altuve to load the bases. He worked out of it, earning his second save of the season, and the Tribe is now 7-10 on the year.
The Good: Everyone on the team except Mike Aviles had at least one hit today, and that marks the second night in a row that the lineup had produced from top to bottom. Gomes was 2-for-4 with a solo home run and a triple, and is showing off the power he’s capable of. Not only is he hitting well, he’s also showing a lot of potential behind the plate.
The Bad: Jimenez struggled to pitch from the stretch. It’s something he’ll have to improve on in order to maintain his spot in the rotation, because he won’t face the Astros’ lineup every outing and will eventually need to pitch well with men on base. Also, Perez labored in the ninth, loading the bases (albeit intentionally) before earning the save. Hopefully his inconsistency is only due to a lack of playing time and not anything more serious.