The Indians traveled to Detroit to play the Tigers, a city in which they had lost 23 of their last 26 games. Starting for the Tigers was rookie left-hander Drew Smyly, a guy they had never faced. The Indians entered 4-12 and ranked dead last in the AL in batting average and on-base percentage against left-handed starters. Taking the mound for the Tribe was Ubaldo Jimenez. He of the 9.00 road ERA and a guy the Indians had just skipped in the rotation.
If you were in Las Vegas, you’d have to have bet a sawbuck on the Tigers in this one, right? Well as a wise man once said, “That’s why they play the games.”
Smily opened the game by striking out the side in the first. In the bottom of the frame, things started in usual Ubaldo fashion. He hit lead off man Quintin Berry, watched him steal second, and then gave up an RBI double to Miguel Cabrera. “Here we go again” is what I thought. But then something happened. Ubaldo turned back the clock to 2010.
Over the next five and two-thirds, the man the Indians hoped would be the top of the rotation arm they needed became just that. For the first time this season, Ubaldo had not one, not two, not three, but four pitches working (see what I did there? It is a glorious morning in Cleveland, isn’t it?).
“He had a good fastball and he was very aggressive with it. He pitched behind a little bit, but he never gave in. That’s what really made the difference for him today. No traffic out there, ” said manager Manny Acta.
Jimenez fell behind eight batters 2-0 and recorded seven outs. Amazing stuff from a guy who entered the game with more walks than strikeouts. Speaking of walks, Ubaldo only issued one free pass the entire game. It came on the last batter he faced with two outs in the seventh, Ramon Santiago.
The extra four days of rest certainly helped to center Ubaldo. He retired 11 straight at one point and 16 of 17. Not too shabby.
“It gave me a break mentally and physically,” Jimenez said. “It gave me a couple more days to rest not only my body, but my mind. I was able to come to the stadium today and just have fun out there. I was not thinking too much or overdoing this or that. I wasn’t stressed.”
Meanwhile, it certainly helps your mental state when your office comes through and puts you on top. In spacious Comerica Park, the Indians put on a Triple party. In the bottom of the third, Asdrubal Cabrera’s three-bagger drove in Lou Marson to tie the game at one. It was one several bad routes taken by Tiger outfielders. Berry, roaming center for Detroit, did his best Ezequiel Carrera impersonation.
The fifth inning was where the Indians would take the lead and finally get to Smyly.
Matt LaPorta opened with a single to left, but was erased on a Lonnie Chisenhall fielder’s choice. That’s when Laser Lou Marson stepped to the plate. Marson laced a triple to the right center gap scoring Chisenhall to put the Tribe on top 2-1. It was Lou’s second hit on the night, extending his hitting streak to eight games. Acta should ride this streak while he can. With the Indians searching for any kind of offense and Carlos Santana just back off of the seven-day concussion DL, why not continue to catch Marson with Santana DH’ing?
Shin-Soo Choo would drive Marson in with an RBI single.
A third Tribe RBI triple came from red-hot Michael Brantley in the sixth. It came after a two-out Smyly walk to Shelley Duncan.
“With this park, it’s a big outfield. There’s a lot of room out there. With the speed that we have on the basepaths and in our lineup, hopefully we get a couple more before we get out of here.”
It was the first time in 10 years the Indians had three triples in a game – the last time also coming in Comerica Park. The three Indians involved that day were Jim Thome, Milton Bradley, and the great Matt Lawton (the Tribe gave him a four-year, $28 million extension before he even played one game in Cleveland. That worked out well).
With the Indians up 4-1 heading into the seventh, Acta sent out Ubaldo for one more inning, despite giving up back to back singles in the sixth. He put two on with two out and Manny had seen enough, calling for lefty Nick Hagadone to face Berry. It took one pitch for Nick to dispose of the left-handed rookie on a fly out to center.
In the eighth, Vinnie Pestano showed zero signs of rust in blowing through the Tigers in order, striking out two. Closer Chris Perez made things interesting in the ninth, but recorded the final three outs for his league leading 18th save. It may not have come if not for an absolutely stunning web gem from Asdrubal at short. With a man on first and nobody out, Gerald Laird hit a flair in the hole between third and short. AC had only one play- a barehanded stab – and he somehow came up with it. In one motion, he gunned it to second to get the important first out. It was as good of a play as you will see made all year.
The much needed 4-2 win got the nine-game road trip started off on the right foot. More importantly, we were able to see a version of Ubaldo Jimenez that we all enjoyed. “He’s been leading the league in walks, with more walks than strikeouts,” Acta said. “He’s better than that. He knows that. We know that. Today was a step in the right direction.”
It will all mean little if he regresses in his next start.
Between this and the Miami Heat loss last night, Cleveland is one happy city this AM.
The Tribe goes for two in a row tonight in Detroit with Jeanmar Gomez (3-4, 4.42 ERA) taking the hill. Gomez will face hard-throwing righty Max Scherzer (5-3, 5.55 ERA) at 7:05.
(AP Photo/Paul Sancya)