Jimenez Strikes Out 13 to Return Tribe to October; Indians 5, Twins 1
Mike B. | On 29, Sep 2013
Sometimes it works out just the way it was planned.
As Ubaldo Jimenez carved up the Minnesota Twins for a 5-1 victory Sunday afternoon to earn their first postseason birth since 2007, Indians general manager Chris Antonetti had to feel like the fruits of his labor were finally paying off. Antonetti, who made the controversial and blockbuster trade for Jimenez on July 30, 2011 watched him toss one of his best games as an Indian in likely his biggest game as a Wahoo.
“It’s a testament to these guys to win 10 in a row and we needed everyone of them,” Antonetti told SportsTime Ohio after the Indians clinched a wild card birth. “It will be fun to come back to Cleveland and win some games.”
Antonetti’s remade roster that features just 10 players from the 2011 Opening Day roster will host the American League Wild Card game Wednesday night at Progressive Field as the hottest team in Major League Baseball riding a 10 game winning streak. Several of his new additions and homegrown, developed players helped provide the necessary offense to send the Indians back to October.
“I think I’m kind of speechless right now,” Indians first baseman Nick Swisher said. “This never gets old. Just to be able to do it with this group and the resurrection from 94 losses to 92 wins is awesome.”
The Tribe took an early lead in the top of the first inning with the offense of their two biggest offseason signings from last winter. Michael Bourn singled to center field to start the game off Twins starter Scott Diamond before Swisher snuck a home run over the left field fence. Swisher’s 22nd home run of the season just carried past left fielder Clete Thomas’ glove and over the wall, giving the Tribe a 2-0 lead.
Meanwhile 2011 trade deadline acquisition, Jimenez, gave up a base hit to Alex Presley to start the bottom half of the first inning and then cruised through the Twins batting order. Jimenez did not allow another hit through the first five innings, including striking out eight. He struck out the side in the fifth inning, long ago removing any discussion of if Drew Pomeranz and Alex White were the better end of the trade two seasons ago.
In the top of the sixth inning the Indians used a little luck and poor Minnesota defense to solidify their October invitation. Carlos Santana reached safely to start the inning on Pedro Florimon’s throwing error. Ryan Raburn dropped a perfectly placed flare into center field to put runners on first and second with no one out.
Cabrera, looking to sacrifice bunt, dropped one down but Twins catcher Eric Fryer threw the ball past first base and into right field. The error allowed Santana to score and Raburn to advance to third base, giving the Tribe a 3-0 lead. After Michael Brantley struck out swinging, Yan Gomes hit a sacrifice fly to left field to bring home Raburn and stake the Indians to a 4-0 lead in the middle of the sixth inning.
Diamond (6-13) was finished for Minnesota after six innings. He allowed four runs—just two earned—while allowing seven hits and striking out three. Michael Tonkin came on to pitch the seventh inning for the Twins.
Jimenez struck out the side in the sixth inning, but with a little extra traffic. After striking out Fryer and Florimon to start the inning, Presley walked and Brian Dozier singled to left field before Jimenez froze Plouffe on an inside curveball to end the inning. It was Jimenez 11th strike out of the game and his fourth start of 10+ strikeouts in his last six starts. He previously had four in his last 98 starts.
Cleveland tallied another run in the top of the seventh inning to extend their lead. Kipnis walked and stole second with one out before Santana doubled off the right center field wall. Santana’s 39th double of the season gave the Indians a 5-0 lead at the seventh inning stretch.
Minnesota finally scored a run in the bottom of the seventh inning and forced Jimenez out of the game. After Ryan Doumit and Chris Parmelee struck out to start the inning, Jimenez allowed singles to Chris Herrmann, Thomas and Fryer. Fryer’s single scored Thomas to cut the Indians’ lead to 5-1. Indians manager Terry Francona relieved Jimenez with Marc Rzepczynski, who struck out pinch-hitter Chris Colabello to end the inning.
Jimenez (13-9) pitched six and two-third innings, allowing one run on five hits a walk and 13 strikeouts. His 13 whiffs tie his career high, originally established on May 3, 2005 as a Colorado Rockie against the San Diego Padres.
“I had to bring everything I had because we really wanted to play at home,” Jimenez said. “Everything was working good. I was able to throw fastball and all the breaking balls for strikes, so I didn’t have to think too much.”
Rzepczynski retired the first out in the eighth inning before Justin Masterson came on to record the final two outs in the frame. Masterson stayed on to work the final three outs and clinch their 92nd victory and first wild card spot in the American League. The Tribe’s ace pitcher threw the first pitch of the season in April in Toronto and last pitch of the Cleveland’s regular season when Thomas grounded to second base and Kipnis dove into shallow right field to make the play and throw to first base with Masterson covering.
“It’s just a total blessing,” Masterson said. “Somehow the Good Lord touched my side and allowed me to get back in there. The initial reports I didn’t think I’d be here whatsoever. I’m just blessed.”
The game did have some concern as Bourn was injured trying to steal second base in the ninth inning. He did not play the final three outs and will be evaluated further later. Cleveland ends the season winners of 10 straight and 15 of their last 17 games.
“It’s been a fun ride and a fun year,” Kipnis said. “We’ve had our ups and downs, but we’ve stayed the course.”
The Tribe now wait to see who they will play Wednesday night at Progressive Field in the American League Wild Card game. The Tampa Bay Rays and Texas Rangers will meet Monday evening in a tie-breaker game in Arlington, Tex. The winning team will advance to play the Indians in a winner-take-all game. The winner of Wednesday’s game will advance to play the Boston Red Sox in the American League Division Series beginning Friday.
According to Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com the Indians intend to start rookie, right-hander Danny Salazar (2-3, 3.12) Wednesday evening. Salazar will be making just his 11th big league start.
Photo: AP Photo/Ann Heisenfelt