Jimenez Outduels Harrell in Texas-Style Battle; Indians 2, Astros 0
By Evan Matsumoto
In 1804, Aaron Burr dueled Alexander Hamilton in a fight that left Hamilton fatally wounded. Friday night’s duel between Indians’ starter Ubaldo Jimenez and Astros’ Lucas Harrell is akin to the former, but without any fatal wounding.
The starting pitchers threw a combined 214 pitches, 125 of those for strikes, gave up a combined six hits, seven walks, and only one run. The most impressive stat of the night, however, was the combined 17 strikeouts through seven innings, in Tribe’s 2-0 win in Minute Maid Park.
The Tribe took four pitches to notch their first run of the game before their bats went stale.
Shin-Soo Choo began the game with a triple that ricocheted off the foul line on the left field wall and rolled almost all the way back to third. Asdrubal Cabrera hit a deep sacrifice fly to left on the very next pitch to bring Choo home and put the Indians up 1-0 in the first frame.
Jimenez struggled early in the first when he walked the second and third batters in the Houston lineup before getting an unusual double play to end the inning.
“The first inning was hard to get into a good rhythm,” Jimenez said. “After the first walk, the second walk was the sorta intentional. I had first base open and facing a left-handed hitter. I didn’t want to give him anything to hit.”
After the leadoff triple by Choo in the first, Astros’ starter, Lucas Harrell, retired 11 straight batters through the top of the fourth inning, including five strikeouts; Asdrubal Cabrera struck out looking and Jason Kipnis dug deeper into an 0-11 slump in the top of the fourth. A runner didn’t reach base until Harrell walked Carlos Santana.
Santana found himself stranded on base after Michael Brantley flied out to left to record the final out of the inning.
The pitching duel continued as Jimenez had five strikeouts through the first four innings, capped by Jed Lowrie and Carlos Lee each waving at a 95-mile-per-hour fastball for their respective third strikes in the bottom of the fourth.
Jimenez gave up the first hit for either team since the second inning, a single to Chris Johnson in the fifth. A routine grounder to Jason Kipnis in the next at-bat promised a double play until Cabrera took the flip and then launched the ball into the seats behind first base, resulting in his eighth error on the season.
After putting two Astros on base in the bottom of the fifth, Jimenez got the Tribe out of the jam by getting Jose Altuve to fly out to left and by striking out Jordan Schafer—his sixth strikeout on the night.
The sixth produced more of the same for both pitchers; Harrell recorded two more strikeouts—by the names of Jimenez and Cabrera—who both struck out with their bats on their shoulders. Jimenez answered with two more of his own in the bottom of the inning, getting Lowrie and J.D. Martinez to go down swinging. Both pitchers punched eight strikeouts through the first six innings.
“You don’t have a lot of room for mistakes,” Jimenez said. “Those games are really exciting because everyone is on the top step and everyone is making plays.”
The Indians’ second hit of the night came from Johnny Damon in the top of the seventh inning. Harrell walked both Santana and Brantley and then loaded the bases with Damon’s single into right field.
With the bases juiced, Casey Kotchman popped into foul territory for out number two and Santana was caught stealing home on the same play to keep the Tribe lead at one.
Two Astros were aboard in the bottom of the seventh with two outs when Joe Smith relieved Jimenez. Smith struck out Altuve to get the Tribe out of the inning.
A Brantley single scored Cabrera in the top of the ninth inning to put the Tribe up 2-0. Brantley moved to second when the throw from right field got away from the Astros’ catcher. Kipnis was thrown out at home on the same play.
Closer Chris Perez recorded his 23rd save of the season, recording the final three outs of the game on three strikeouts.
The 28-year-old Jimenez threw six and two-third innings, gave up four hits, four walks, and notched eight strikeouts. He improves to 7-5 on the season.
Saturday marks the second of a three-game series in Houston. Jeanmar Gomez (4-6, 4.95 ERA) takes the mound for the Tribe against Dallas Keuchel (0-0, 1.80 ERA). The game starts at 4:05 p.m. and can be seen on SportsTime Ohio.
Photo: Bob Levey/Getty Images