August 23, 2014

Medina
Mostly cloudy
69°F

Tribe: Jimenez, three relievers keep Blue Jays off scoreboard

CLEVELAND — The Indians got their typical brief outing from right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez. On Tuesday night against Toronto, it was more than adequate.

Jimenez tossed six shutout innings and Cleveland hitters did just enough to open a three-game series with a 3-0 victory over the Blue Jays at Progressive Field.

Cleveland shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera avoids Toronto’s Maicer Izturis after a force at second in the fourth inning. (AP PHOTO)

Jimenez wasn’t dominant, allowing five hits and walking a pair, but his effort was good enough to notch his seventh win of the season and contribute to a much-needed victory.

“He did a good job,” said Cleveland manager Terry Francona, whose club won just the second time in seven games. “There was some traffic for the better part of the night, but he pitched around some things and never let it spiral or get out of hand. There was a lot of things to like.

“In a perfect world, he goes seven (innings) instead of six, but the hope is that with more outings, that starts happening more often.”

Jimenez (7-4, 4.37 ERA) had runners aboard in all but one inning he worked — ironically enough, his final inning in the sixth — but just one advanced to third base.

“I guess my slider was really good,” said Jimenez, who struck four, two of them to end innings with runners on. “Every time we got in trouble, I used it a lot. The guys played great. We got a shutout.”

In what was billed as yet another bounce-back season for Jimenez, the right-hander has been better, but still nowhere near the pitcher the Indians traded for in 2011.

He’s earned wins in four of his last five decisions, but has lasted longer than six innings in just three of his 19 starts. His effort Tuesday was his longest start since June 1.

“It’s probably not as consistent as I want it to be,” Jimenez said. “But I’ve been able to compete with what I’ve got every five days. I wish I could pitch longer, but I’ve been able to compete.”

Francona chose to view Jimenez’s performance thus far in a more positive light.

“I think he’s done a pretty darn good job,” he said. “I think he should be proud of himself. What happened last year was difficult for him. Every time he goes out there, we expect to win. He gives us a chance to win.”

Jimenez had little breathing room, with Toronto starter Josh Johnson also working an effective outing — and for longer.

Johnson went seven innings, allowing two runs on three hits.

The Indians scored both their runs off Johnson in the fourth inning, with Asdrubal Cabrera drawing a one-out walk before Jason Kipnis, Nick Swisher and Michael Brantley reached on base hits — the last two, RBI singles.

Cleveland added a run off the Blue Jays bullpen in the eighth inning on a sacrifice fly from Cabrera, who scored Drew Stubbs. Stubbs started the inning with a double.

That turned it over to closer Chris Perez, who allowed consecutive one-out singles in the ninth, but was still able to notch his fourth straight save since leaving the disabled list with right shoulder inflammation.

“It’s nice to see,” Francona said. “For him to feel good health-wise, that’s a real good sign. His ball has life and he’s down in the zone. That’s encouraging.”

The Indians were a wounded bunch after dropping three of four to the Tigers at home, but after a quality performance in the series opener against Toronto, they trail first-place Detroit by 2½ games in the Central Division standings.

“This was a nice bounce-back game,” Francona said. “We didn’t do a lot offensively, but we were crisp. And, again, it all starts with pitching.”

Contact Chris Assenheimer at (440) 329-7136 or cassenheimer@chroniclet.com. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.