Ubaldo, 'pen blank Blue Jays in series opener
Righty's six stellar frames backed by Swisher, Brantley, Cabrera
CLEVELAND -- After the Indians dropped three out of four meetings with Detroit at Progressive Field, they needed a solid all-around performance in Tuesday's series opener against Toronto.
That's exactly what they got, with starter Ubaldo Jimenez leading the way.
Though it wasn't always pretty, Jimenez's six-inning scoreless outing set the tone in a quick 3-0 win for Cleveland over the visiting Blue Jays. The contest lasted just two hours, 16 minutes, which made up for the 36-minute rain delay that preceded first pitch.
Jimenez allowed five hits -- including three doubles -- but no runs. He also walked two and struck out four. In eight games this month, the Tribe's starting pitcher has given the club six full innings only one other time, as Corey Kluber lasted 6 1/3 frames on Sunday.
"He did a good job. There was some traffic for the better part of the night," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "He pitched around some things. He never let it spiral or get out of hand. ... He pitched himself back into counts when he needed to. He had good life on his fastball. There was a lot of things to like."
In 14 of his 18 starts, Jimenez has kept his opponent to three earned runs or fewer, building a 6-1 record and 2.49 ERA in such outings. Over his other four starts, however, Jimenez has given up 24 earned runs across 15 innings.
"It's probably been not as consistent as I probably would want it to," Jimenez said. "But I've been able to go out there and compete with whatever I have every five days. I wish I could be able to go more innings. ... That hasn't been the case. But I've been able to compete."
Overall, Jimenez is 7-4 with a 4.37 ERA. On Tuesday, the right-hander threw 105 pitches, only 60 of which went for strikes.
"In a perfect world, that gets better and he goes seven instead of six," Francona said. "And I think sometimes, it's part of why nobody seems to get a beat on him either. I mean, he pitches backwards. He's got some deception. They don't really ever hone in on him."
The Blue Jays weren't without their advantages against Jimenez, but he prevented them from cashing in. After Edwin Encarnacion sent a two-out double over Michael Bourn's head in the first inning, Jimenez got Adam Lind to fly out to center, leaving Encarnacion in scoring position.
Then, in the second, Maicer Izturis hit a one-out double. Michael Brantley was in position to make the play, but he lost the ball in the lights. Regardless, Toronto stranded men on first and second when Emilio Bonifacio swung at and missed a 92-mph fastball from Jimenez two batters later.
"We just didn't have anything going tonight," Toronto manager John Gibbons said. "We had a couple of shots, left some guys on base, just couldn't get that big hit."
Jimenez began the top of the fourth by surrendering a double to Colby Rasmus and a single to Izturis, but again Toronto couldn't manage a run. None of the next three hitters did anything substantial against Jimenez, who left after facing 25 batters.
"He's done a pretty [darn] good job," Francona said. "He gives us a chance to win. We'll take that."
Toronto starter Josh Johnson (1-4) breezed through the Indians lineup during the first third of the game. But after he struck out Bourn to start the fourth, the Tribe started knocking the ball around.
Following a walk to Asdrubal Cabrera, Cleveland reeled off three straight hits. Nick Swisher and Brantley both singled to right, bringing home Cabrera and Jason Kipnis, who had reached on a single up the middle.
"I thought Josh was great. That one inning he gave up those two runs, but that's what we look for out of him," Gibbons said. "He pitched a heck of a ballgame, we just didn't get any run support."
With American League Final Vote candidate Steve Delabar in to pitch the eighth, Cleveland added another run on Cabrera's sacrifice fly to center. The deep drive plated Drew Stubbs, who led off the stanza with a double and moved to third on Bourn's sacrifice bunt.
After Jimenez's departure, Cody Allen pitched the seventh, Joe Smith tossed the eighth and Chris Perez nabbed his 10th save in the ninth.
And despite a lineup that produced just four hits, the Indians picked up their second win in three games.
"We didn't do a lot offensively, but we played a crisp game," Francona said. "Again, it starts with pitching. Even though we started late, that's one of the quicker games we've played. We turned some double plays. ... That was a good bounce-back game for us."