Ubaldo Shines and Tribe Squeezes Out Victory; Indians 3, Tigers 2
By Mike Brandyberry
Last July the Cleveland Indians traded for Ubaldo Jimenez with the intention of him becoming the leader of the rotation and someone to pitch big games, thus taking them to the next level.
While he has struggled at times and the Tribe has not reached the next level, Jimenez gave the Indians an ace effort Tuesday evening, holding the Tigers scoreless for six innings. While he might not receive the win in the scorebook, he might have kept the Indians American League Central Division hopes alive for another day, helping defeat the Tigers, 3-2.
“Ubaldo pitched a heck of a six innings tonight,” Indians manager Manny Acta said. “He really had to pitch. Five of six innings the leadoff hitter reached base so he was in the stretch all night. He had to make pitches and we made a couple mistakes, so he had to buckle down.”
Cleveland would crack the scoreboard in the second inning later when Carlos Santana led off the inning with a double to the right centerfield wall. Travis Hafner flew to deep centerfield to move Carlos Santana to third base and Johnny Damon lined a base hit over the drawn in infield to plate the first run of the game. Casey Kotchman ended the inning a batter later when he hit into a double play, but the Tribe had drawn first blood and led 1-0.
Meanwhile Ubaldo Jimenez danced in and out of one small jam after another. Jimenez was never in serious trouble but did not work a three-up, three-down inning through the first four frames and stranded five Tiger runners. Jimenez would have to work out of bigger jams before his night was complete.
“He had a very good fastball—live tonight—and a very good split finger,” Acta said. “That was his best pitch today to put away people and he could throw it for strikes when he wanted to.”
The Feisty Featherheads would tally another run on Fister and the Tigers in the fourth inning when Kipnis doubled down the left field line to start the inning. Brantley reached on an infield single when Fielder could not scoop Miguel Cabrera’s throw out of the dirt to put runners on first and second with no one out.
Santana would follow with a base hit through the right side to score Kipnis and give the Indians a 2-0 lead, however Fielder cut off the throw home and retired Brantley in a run down between second and third base. Fielder and Brantley collided as they each dove for the bag and Brantley came away with the worst of it, appearing to jam his shoulder. He would stay in the game.
Detroit would muster their best rally of the game in the fifth inning against Jimenez when Omar Infante led off the inning with a base hit and after Austin Jackson struck out, Quintin Berry singled to place runners on first and second with only one out and Miguel Cabrera and Fielder heading to the plate.
Jimenez would get a ground ball up the middle that Asdrubal Cabrera fielded and flipped to Kipnis for the first out. Kipnis’ throw sailed and would have gone out of play and scored a run, however Kotchman made a leaping stab and tagged Miggy before he crossed the bag to end the inning.
His final Houdini act of the night may have been his best when Fielder singled to center field to start the sixth inning. After Delmon Young struck out, Brennan Boesch dropped a fly ball down the left field line that should have been caught by Damon. He appeared to give up on the ball before it dropped three feet fair. After Jimenez sawed off Jhonny Peralta and got him to pop out to Kipnis, a wild pitch advanced both runners to scoring position. With the game on the line, Jimenez battled Alex Avila through a nine-pitch at bat before getting a ground ball to Kotchman to end the inning.
“Everybody knows what we are playing for,” Jimenez said. “We are trying to compete and trying to win the division. If you want to do it, it starts right here.”
Jimenez’s night would be complete after six, hard fought innings against one of the best offenses in baseball. He would allow seven hits, walked two and struck out four while not allowing a run on 103 pitches. He allowed the leadoff man to reach base in five of the six innings he worked and never had a three-up, three-down inning.
“It wasn’t like I was trying to let the leadoff guy on base every single time,” Jimenez said. “They just gave me a good fight. I was able to control my pitches and get ground balls.”
However, the bullpen that is normally reliable would stumble in its first inning of work. Joe Smith would come on to work the seventh and after retiring the first two hitters, would walk Berry after having him in an 0-2 hole. Miguel Cabrera would follow with a two-run home run to the deepest part of the ballpark to tie the game for the Tigers at 2-2.
The Indians would battle right back in the bottom of the seventh to retake the lead in quite the unconventional way. With one out, Travis Hafner drove a ball to deep left centerfield off the wall and caroming away from the both outfielders and allowing him to rumble in with a triple.
“I wasn’t sure if it would get to the wall or not, but I just run out of the box hard and made sure I had a double,” Hafner said. “When it kicked away it was worth the risk to try and get to third because there is a number of ways to score from there.”
Lou Marson would run for Hafner and with Aaron Cunningham at the plate—who had replaced Damon for defense—the Tribe would use a perfectly executed squeeze play to plate Marson and give them a 3-2 lead.
“I knew the squeeze was coming. We put Marson in for a reason,” Cunningham said. “It was just nice to be able to do something for the team. I only come in late in the game and get starts here and there, but to contribute is an unbelievable feeling.”
Fister’s night would be complete after seven innings, allowing nine hits and three runs while walking one and striking out four. It is the first time the Indians have defeated Fister since he was acquired by the Tigers last summer.
“I felt if we took the lead in that inning we had a very good chance to win the game with Pestano and CP coming into the game. He’s a good bunter and he’s shown that throughout the year,” Acta said. “After the first swing he took on the 1-0 count, we decided it was a good time to take a chance. He did a good job of not squaring too early and Lou didn’t break too early.”
Vinnie Pestano and Chris Perez would work scoreless innings in the eighth and ninth respectively, to give the Indians the win and the first game of the series. The Indians continue to fight for their lives against the streaking Tigers, who suffer only their third loss since the All-Star break. With the win the Indians climb back to only three games out of first place in the division.
Wednesday the Indians will try to scratch a game closer to the Tigers when Zach McAllister (4-2, 3.21 ERA) will match up with Max Scherzer (9-5, 4.61 ERA). McAllister will try to give the Tribe life for another day before they must decide their trade deadline strategy this weekend. Tonight’s win is the Indians sixth victory in seven games against Detroit.
“It’s important to win the first one,” Acta said. “Also knowing you are playing the team that is leading the division. You don’t want to be too far back, so you got to cut down a game here and a game there. We just have to continue to take them one at a time. Show up tomorrow and play again and try to get it done and see where it takes us because we have a lot of games left.”
Photo: AP Photo/Tony Dejak