October 30, 2014

Medina
Intermittent clouds
40°F

Tigers 4, Indians 2: Freefall continues, but pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez looks good

Starting pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez is greeted in the dugout by teammates during yesterday's game. (AP photo.)

Starting pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez is greeted in the dugout by teammates during yesterday's game. (AP photo.)

CLEVELAND — Ubaldo Jimenez came within one pitch of throwing a masterpiece Monday against the Detroit Tigers.

Unfortunately, that pitch turned into a three-run homer by Victor Martinez and gave Detroit all the offense it needed in a 4-2 win over the Tribe. The Tigers now lead Cleveland by 7½ games in the American League Central Division with 24 games to play.

“Especially since we’re playing Detroit, you want to make every pitch perfect, and I was excited right from the start because we have to chase them for first place,” said Jimenez, who only allowed two hits while striking out eight in seven strong innings. “I felt really good, I was really aggressive, and I went after it. Victor is just a great hitter, and I threw the ball right to the middle of the plate. He made me pay.”

Martinez’s 420-foot bomb in the fourth accounted for all three runs allowed by Jimenez, who fell to 8-11 with a 4.66 ERA this season. The right-hander also walked three and hit a batter during his 117-pitch outing before exiting with the Indians trailing 3-1.

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It marked Jimenez’s first home loss since June 12, when he took the mound for Colorado against the Dodgers, and his first career defeat at Progressive Field. He is 2-1 with a 2.25 ERA in four games on the corner of Carnegie and Ontario.

“Ubaldo threw a good game for us,” Indians manager Manny Acta said. “He pitched very well, except for one hiccup in that one inning when he gave up the homer that cost him three runs.

“He just had one bad inning, and everybody goes through that. He struggled with his command and it cost him, but he gave us a chance to win through seven innings.”

Miguel Cabrera was the only Tigers batter to reach base in the first three innings, walking on a questionable 3-2 pitch from Jimenez in the second. The Dominican Republic native struck out five in the opening two innings.

Detroit’s initial hit came with one out in the fourth, when Delmon Young sent a shot up the middle. Cabrera then worked out of an 0-2 hole to draw a walk, setting the stage for Martinez’s game-changing homer.

“My biggest mistake was walking Cabrera after I got in front of him,” said Jimenez, who is 2-2 with a 5.27 ERA since being acquired from the Rockies on July 31 for Drew Pomeranz, Alex White, Joe Gardner and Matt McBride. “With Victor, I tried to go away with my fastball, but it got too much of the middle of the plate.”

Though Jimenez’s control was not spectacular — throwing 53 balls to 64 strikes — he fought through it with the help of his great fastball. He hit 96 mph on the radar gun early, and was clocked at 92 in the seventh.

Those numbers weren’t good enough to save the Tribe from another defeat, but were exactly what his manager was looking for on Labor Day.

“He was very aggressive with his fastball the first time through the lineup, and he showed what kind of stuff he has out there today,” Acta said. “I’m not going to complain about him going seven innings, allowing two hits, and getting eight strikeouts. We need to score some runs to win. I thought Ubaldo pitched well, very well today.”

Contact Brian Dulik at brisports@hotmail.com.