Don’t look now, but the Cleveland Indians have won two games in a row and took two of three from the Texas Rangers. After losing eight games in a row and looking bad doing it in the process, the Tribe desperately needed something good to happen in order to restore their confidence. They got that on Tuesday night with a quality pitching performance from Corey Kluber and it was reinforced by a solid start from Ubaldo Jimenez on Wednesday.
Over the course of five innings, Jimenez allowed only one run on four hits and four walks. He also struck out four. The only downfall for Ubaldo on the night was his pitch count. Through five innings he threw 101 pitches, thus forcing Terry Francona to go to his bullpen in order to record the final 12 outs of the game. They did not disappoint.
For the first time since their recent stretch of bad play began, the bullpen finally supported one of the starters and guided the team to victory in the late innings. Rich Hill, Bryan Shaw, Nick Hagadone, Joe Smith and Vinnie Pestano combined to throw four innings of four hit, one run baseball. The only run they allowed came in the ninth when Jurickson Profar doubled to right to score Leonys Martin, who had singled and advanced to second on defensive indifference with two outs in the ninth.
Offensively, the Tribe pounced early on Rangers starter Nick Tepesch. Tepesch allowed all five of the Indians runs over the course of five innings. In the top of the second, Mike Aviles homered to score Jason Giambi and put the Indians up 2-0. Then in the top of the third, Michael Brantley singled to score Michael Bourn for his 27th RBI of the season. In the top half of the fifth, Jason Kipnis homered to put the Tribe up 4-1 and then Carlos Santana followed a few batters later with an RBI double to right, scoring Brantley and putting the Tribe up by a score of 5-1.
With the win, the Indians took the series from the Rangers two games to one. It was also the first time the Indians have won two games in a row since May 29 and 30 against the Reds. The Tribe will make their way back to Cleveland and, after an off day today, will take on the Washington Nationals in a three game weekend series.
The Good: Ubaldo Jimenez delivered with a solid five innings of work, but the star of the show on Wednesday night had to be the bullpen. As previously mentioned, they delivered four spectacular innings of work, limiting the Rangers to only one run. It was a far cry from the struggles we have seen out of the bullpen of late and a nice reminder of what this team is capable of when everything is clicking.
The Bad: Ubaldo Jimenez’s pitch count. 101 pitches over the course of five-plus innings of work did him in. Once again, Terry Francona opted for quality over quantity by not attempting to stretch Jimenez beyond his breaking point. He brought him out for the sixth inning, but after watching him put the first two batters on, decided to pull the rip cord and go to the pen. It would have been nice to have seen Jimenez go a bit further than just the five innings, but after Kluber’s gem on Tuesday the bullpen had all the rest they could need.
The “Huh?”: The Indians are now 12-2 on the season against the AL West. If only that success would translate to games against the AL Central.