Tribe can't dig out of Ubaldo's early hole
After 1-2-3 first, right-hander allows Red Sox seven runs in second
CLEVELAND -- Ubaldo Jimenez walked slowly off the mound at Progressive Field and heard it from the home crowd with each step he took. The closer the pitcher moved to Tribe's dugout, the louder the boos rained down from the frustrated fans.
It was only the second inning on Tuesday night, but the hole Jimenez dug in his abbreviated appearance was too deep for the Indians to overcome in 7-2 loss to the Red Sox. All seven runs produced by Red Sox, who were playing with heavy hearts in the wake of Monday's bombings at the Boston Marathon, were charged to Jimenez.
This was another ugly entry to Jimenez's long list of rough outings since joining the Indians.
"That's probably pretty much the lowest I can get," Jimenez said.
Three summers ago, the Tribe acquired Jimenez at the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline from the Rockies in exchange for a package of four prospects. Since he came to Cleveland, the lanky right-hander has continuously tinkered with his mechanics, searching for lost velocity and the type of rhythm that made him a National League Cy Young Award contender once upon a time.
It has been the same this season. In light of a pair of rainouts last week, the Indians chose to skip Jimenez in the rotation in favor of giving him a pair of side sessions to sort through some delivery issues. Jimenez worked with pitching coach Mickey Callaway on keeping his front side closed and pounding the lower half of the strike zone, and the pitcher felt confident in his adjustments leading up to this outing against Boston.
"Mickey worked on direction to the plate and throwing the ball downhill, just pounding the zone down," manager Terry Francona said. "You can be frustrated, or you can try to make it better. I think we choose to try to make it better. As long as he keeps working, we're going to work hard. We want to get it right."
Jimenez said the plan now is to go back to throwing two side sessions between starts on a regular basis. That is the approach he had during Spring Training, and following a meeting with Callaway after his latest meltdown on the mound, Jimenez is going to return to that schedule.
"I have to erase everything," Jimenez said.
For one inning, Jimenez looked fine.
Jimenez induced consecutive groundouts off the bats of Jacoby Ellsbury, Shane Victorino and Dustin Pedroia in the first, providing a promising opening to his start for the Indians (5-7). In his previous performance, during which the right-hander lasted only 4 1/3 innings against the Yankees on April 8, Jimenez surrendered three runs in the first inning and seven in the outing.
That version of Jimenez (0-2, 11.25 ERA) showed up in the second inning against the Red Sox.
Mike Napoli led off with a double and Jimenez followed with a walk to Will Middlebrooks. After striking out Daniel Nava, Jimenez then issued back-to-back walks to Jonny Gomes and David Ross, forcing in Boston's first run. Pedro Ciriaco chipped in a sacrifice fly and Ellsbury came through with an RBI single. Jimenez then walked Victorino to load the bases again and Pedroia drew a free pass to bring in another run.
"I thought we had an excellent approach against Jimenez," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "We took advantage of some walks. We had a couple key base hits."
With the Red Sox (9-4) holding a swift 4-0 lead, Francona had seen enough. He walked to the mound and took the ball from Jimenez, who headed off the field while the crowd unleashed its chorus of boos. Tribe reliever Cody Allen took over for Jimenez and promptly allowed a three-run double to Napoli before escaping the second with a strikeout of Middlebrooks.
"It is tough," Jimenez said of hearing the boos. "But that's part of the game. If you do bad, they'll be like that. If you do good, they'll help me. I understand it.''
Allen settled in for the Tribe, setting career highs in innings (three), strikeouts (six) and pitches (52), and giving the offense some time to try to break through against Red Sox starter Felix Doubront. In all, Cleveland's bullpen combined for 7 1/3 innings and 15 strikeouts. The offense only managed two runs in Doubront's five innings for Boston.
"Give Doubront some credit," Francona said. "We had some opportunities and we probably expanded the zone. When you look up and you see 100 pitches after five, you think, 'OK, we have a chance to win this game.' We just couldn't get a big hit when we needed it."
Overall, Jimenez was tagged with seven runs on two hits in his 1 2/3 innings, finishing with five walks, one strikeout and 59 pitches thrown, including 44 in the second. He became only the fourth Indians pitcher since 1916 (Albie Lopez, '93; Scott Scudder, '92; Gary Bell, '60) to allow at least seven runs and issue at least five walks in less than two innings of a start.
Jimenez also became the first Cleveland pitcher to walk five batters in one inning since Roberto Hernandez achieved that dubious feat at home against Tampa Bay on May 25, 2009.
Since being acquired by the Indians, Jimenez is 13-23 with a 5.60 ERA. Dating back to Juy 14 last season, the right-hander has gone 1-12 with a 7.27 ERA across 17 appearances, with his only win in that span coming on Aug. 9 against the Red Sox. Since the start of the '11 season, Jimenez has led the Majors in starts with at least seven runs allowed (nine) and starts with at least five walks issued (11).
"I worked really hard in the offseason and in Spring Training," Jimenez said. "It's not going good right now."