The mark of a good team is always how they respond to adversity. The Terry Francona led Indians have had plenty of it thus far, thanks to slumps, shaky starting pitching, and a whole host of injuries. But when things were at their low point, they turned things around in a hurry.
Sunday brought the end of the six-game winning streak where they hit everything in sight and pitched better than they had all year. So how would they respond to their first loss in a week, coupled with the bad news that their set-up man Vinnie Pestano would indeed ned to go on the disabled list with his sore elbow. Nick Hagadone was recalled from Columbus and everyone in the pen would move up a spot.
The Tribe welcomed the Oakland A’s into Progressive Field, fresh off of their series win against the New York Yankees. Ubaldo Jimenez would get the ball from Francona. As we know with Ubaldo, you never know what you are going to get. The last time out, he threw seven shutout innings. However, he entered that start with an ERA over 10. So which guy would show up?
The offense started things off with a bang and gave Jimenez and nice early cushion. The two poster boys for the Tribe’s slow start, Jason Kipnis and Asdrubal Cabrera, hit back to back jacks off of Jarrod Parker in the first. The Indians are now 12-2 when they score first. Both Kipnis and Asdrubal have really broken out of their collective funk over the past eight games. It is not a coincidence that the team’s play has improved as well.
After Nick Swisher popped up, Parker came up and in on Mark Reynolds and hit him in the back. Home plate umpire Angel Hernandez, a close second to CB Bucknor for worst ump in the game, issued Parker a warning. Reynolds would later get his revenge.
Fast forward to the fifth inning. Cabrera led things off with his second home run on the night off of Parker. Nick Swisher would strike out which brought Reynolds back to the plate. The man they call The Sheriff took Parker’s first pitch and absolutely tattooed it to the bleachers in left. It hit three rows from the top, bouncing off the bottom of the scoreboard. The tape measure claimed only 460 feet, but I have to respectfully disagree. That was the second biggest shot to left I had ever seen at Jacobs/Progressive Field. Only Mark McGuire’s shot of of the scoreboard in 1997 was deeper. Reynolds stood at home plate and admired it for a second while looking right at Parker as he started his home run trot. Revenge was sweet.
“They all count. First row, back row, whatever,” a modest Reynolds said of the blast. “It’s just a homer, guys.”
While the Indians were using the longball to beat Parker, the A’s were having trouble with the Ubaldo express. For the first five innings, other than a Yoenis Cespedes solo shot, Jimenez was baffling the usually patient Oakland offense. They could only muster two hits while walking just once. Ubaldo was also striking dudes out like the good old days in Colorado. He has a season high-eight, all coming in the first five innings.
In the sixth, the A’s approach finally started to get to him. The Indians led 4-1 and Jimenez put the first two men on. A Cespedes sac fly inched the A’s closer, but Brandon Moss followed with a single. Jimenez was teetering and Francona knew it. He let him face the right-handed hitting Josh Donaldson, but walked him. Francona called on Hagadone to matchup with lefty Josh Reddick. There is no doubt that Hagadone was caught in a numbers crunch because of the need for a spot starter last Wednesday. He deserves to be here and he showed it last night. It took just three pitches for Nick to strike out Reddick looking, ending the best chance the A’s had to get back in the game.
The Tribe would add insurance in the seventh. Chris Resop walked both Cabrera and Swisher with one out. A Reynolds grounder moved both into scoring position and A’s manager Bob Melvin wisely called for the intentional pass of the AL’s leading hitter, Carlos Santana. Resop would have to take his chances with the 42-year old Jason Giambi. The Tribe’s DH fell being 0-2 before working the count full. The 3-2 pitch was lined up the middle, bringing in two and delivering the dagger. It was the kind of professional at-bat that Giambi is here to produce.
AL Player of the Week Ryan Raburn then delivered he final nail in the Oakland coffin with an RBI double of his own.
Brian Shaw and Joe Smith did the rest and closed out a 7-3 win for Jimenez. The offense out up another 10-hit evening with four home runs. Quality pitching, lots of hits, and power. Just another all around solid evening of Tribe baseball. They have now won seven of eight and 10 of 14.
“It feels good,” said Jimenez of his second-consecutive solid outing. “It feels good to be able to go out there and compete and give your team a chance to win.”
They will go for a second straight against the A’s tonight with Zach McAllister (2-3, 3.30 ERA) on the mound. He will face Oakland lefty Tommy Milone (3-3, 3.69 ERA)
(Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)