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Second Thoughts Game #34: Indians 7, Tigers 6

Tribe takes down Verlander to even up the three game series

Second Thoughts Game #34: Indians 7, Tigers 6
May 12, 2013
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Player of the Game: Ubaldo Jimenez (6 Inn, 3 H, 1 ER 1 BB / 8 SO)

The Leadoff

It was a nail biter in the heart of Motown Saturday night, as the Tribe snuck by their Central Division rival Detroit Tigers, 7-6. What looked to be an easy win against ace Justin Verlander with Cleveland up 6-1 in the seventh inning, ultimately fell apart late by the Indians bullpen.

Relievers Nick Hagadone and Cody Allen combined to pitch just one inning, giving up four earned runs before closer Chris Perez pushed fans to the edge of their seats in the ninth. Pure Rage would get the job done despite giving up just one unearned run to record his sixth save of the season.

The talk of the game though was all about Cleveland starter Ubaldo Jimenez. For his third straight start, Jimenez (3-2, 5.55 ERA) looked sharp tossing six innings of three hit ball, yielding just one run, one walk and eight strikeouts.

Beating yet another Cy Young winner in Verlander

I can’t think of a better offensive showing by the Tribe from the very first inning. The Indians sent eight men to the plate off Verlander in the first frame, scoring two runs on just two hits in the inning. The Tigers ace looked very erratic out of the gate giving up back-to-back walks to Carlos Santana Jason Giambi, walking a run home on the free pass to the Indians designated hitter.

While he did finish the game with eight strikeouts and three earned runs over five innings, Verlander took the loss in the ballgame and is now just 1-3 in his last four starts against his divisional foes.

What is it about the Tribe and former Cy Young Award winners this season? Through 34 games, former award winners are now just 1-6 with an 8.10 ERA against the Indians. If only Cleveland could find a way to stay consistent against pitchers without any pitching hardware.

The Big U is Back

I’m just going to come out and say it. There should absolutely be no reason to talk down Jimenez from this point forward after not only defeating Verlander and the Tigers, but compiling three straight stellar outings in a row.

For the first time in his career with the Indians, Jimenez has looked like the Jimenez of old over his last three starts, going 3-0 with 1.45 ERA.

He was in the driver’s seat in complete control Saturday night, as the right-hander’s only mistake in the ballgame came on a solo home run by former Indians shortstop Jhonny Peralta in the third inning.

Throwing 93 pitches through the first six innings (63 for strikes), I really thought manager Terry Francona should’ve stuck with Jimenez to at least start the seventh inning. Instead Francona chose to go to his bullpen where it almost cost him late.

With the quality outing by Jimenez, the Indians rotation pickup yet another victory as pitching continues to be one of the team’s main assets of late. There were many this offseason who claimed the Tribe did not have the starting pitching to compete in the American League Central and yet over their last 12 games, starters are now a combined 10-1.

I had a chance to talk with first baseman Nick Swisher earlier this week about the team’s starting pitching, here’s what he had to say: “For all that talk everyone was doing in the offseason about our starting pitching, these boys should shut some people up.”

Swish This

Speaking of the switch-hitting slugger, all Swisher has done since missing three games with a sore left elbow is hit. Going 1-for-3 Saturday with an RBI double, the first baseman is currently on a six-game hitting streak where he’s collected at least one RBI in four straight games.

Over his last 10 games, Swisher is hitting .297 with two doubles, one triple, three home runs, six RBI and nine runs scored. It’s nice to see the former Ohio State grad getting hotter at the plate and having even more fun day in and day out, becoming another spark in the Indians deep lineup.

We are all Kipnisses…Still

His stat line on the night may not be as pretty, but second baseman Jason Kipnis was definitely one of the key reasons the Tribe squeezed by with the one run victory. With runners on first and second and one out, he made the play of the game in the bottom of the ninth inning, running out a grounder up the middle by Tigers centerfielder Austin Jackson to save a run. Kipnis then flipped the ball behind his back getting the force out at second base. It was his speed earlier in the game that would benefit the Indians as well.

Getting a base hit with two outs in the second inning, Kipnis scored from first on an RBI triple by Asdrubal Cabrera down the right field line. It was the speed of the second baseman that scored what would later be the deciding run of the game on a great headfirst slide at home plate.

Really, what is there not to like about the 26-year old Kipnis? With his early season struggles behind him, he plays the way the game should be played every single day and will continue to be a key asset to the Indians lineup for many years to come.

Like his teammate Swisher, Kipnis is heating up at the plate hitting .289 (11-for-38) over his last nine games with two doubles, two triples, three homers, 10 RBI and seven runs scored.

Scoring first is Important

So much has been made of the Tribe and their ability to score first this season, and why not? The team improves their record to 15-3 when getting on the board first with the win on Saturday. Playing ahead is important in any major sport and the Indians continue to show that.

Holding leads when getting them and remaining constant goes a long way during a 162-game journey and just could be the right recipe for a playoff run later this season.

Closing Time

With the win, the Wahoo’s move just one game behind the Tigers for first place in the American League Central Division with a record of 19-15. Winning 11 of their last 13 ballgames, the Indians have own a 14-5 record in their last 19 games.

Up next for the Indians: Cleveland will try and take the three game series with Detroit in the rubber match on Sunday, as it will be Tribe right-hander Zach McAllister (3-3, 2.63 ERA) vs. Rick Porcello (1-2, 7.52 ERA). Catcher Carlos Santana is hitting .375 (9-for-24) in his career against Porcello with three homers and four RBI. The Indians are 5-3 with a 4.10 ERA lifetime against the Tigers right-hander.

 

Follow Jim on Twitter @JBirdman27 or he can be reached via email at jberdysz27@gmail.com.

User Comments

Tony
May 13, 2013 - 11:53 AM EDT
Nick, this was Saturday's game.....after they won, they were 19-15 and a game out of 1st. Also, it was 6-1 before Hagadone and the pen allowed 4 runs in the 7th to make it a 6-5 game and then the Indians added a run to make it 7-5 before the Tigers scored a run in the 9th to close the scoring at 7-6.
Nick
May 13, 2013 - 11:29 AM EDT
Hey Jim,

A couple things I noticed...

The Indians were never up 6-1....we scored the 6th run in the top of the 9th and then scored again in the 10th.

Also, the Indians are not 19-15, they are 20-15 and not a game back with Detroit but tied actually for first, 0 GB.
Adam
May 12, 2013 - 7:38 PM EDT
I just can't get behing the idea of "Ubaldo is back" yet. We have seen him go through stretches like this before, including the entire month of June last year. It's pretty fair to say that luck has played a pretty vital role in Jimenez's previous three "stellar" outings:

BABIP:
vs. KC: .158
vs. OAK: .250
vs. DET: .167

LOB% (same order as above):
100%
89.3%
100%

I'm sorry, those numbers just are not sustainable. Last night his average fastball velo was below 92 mph. I hate to be the downer about this, but let's remember he pitched 32.1 innings last June, with a 2.78 ERA...only to post an ERA near 7 over the next two months. We've seen this act before, and until I see his stuff actually make strides towards where he was a few years ago, I'm not going to believe "he's back."
yourtribe
May 12, 2013 - 1:08 PM EDT
big win even though its may.

hagadone seems so good and then nights like last night. hard to figure. seems like bauer has the same issues - control.
Jim
May 12, 2013 - 11:52 AM EDT
Yeah...I don't like the way rotations are handled anymore...but that's what happens when you pay them the kinda money they make...

...get out the plastic bubble wrap...
shy
May 12, 2013 - 11:43 AM EDT
I think Francona wanted to leave Jimenez in to pitch another inning. The reason he didn't is the Indians had a 5 run lead and there are a lot of guys in the bullpen(too many in my opinion) who need work. It's really hard to keep young guys like Shaw, Albers, Hagadone, Allen sharp if they don't get regular work in game situations. Same thing w Smith because he has such an unorthodox deliver. I am old school, I like leaving the starter in when he's going good. Back in the day pitchers went 9 innings all the time if they were staying ahead and they pitched every 4 th day instead of every 5 th. Nowadays they are trained to go six and turn it over to the specialists- if the starters do well and go long the relievers suffer and if the relievers do well it's usually because the starters are having problems staying in ball games. The whole thing is counter-intuitve to building a dominant pitching staff IMO
Budi
May 12, 2013 - 10:35 AM EDT
Jim: Where is Matt Capps? Why isn't he called up? He could help in the late innings, especially when Pestano in DL.

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