CLEVELAND — Ubaldo Jimenez still isn’t dominating the way he did during the 2010 season in Colorado. But he’s pitching well enough to win these days, and that’s good enough for the Indians.
With Jimenez offering up another positive outing and Cleveland hitters backing the right-hander with plenty of offense Saturday night, the Indians rolled to a 7-3 win over the Rays at Progressive Field.
With a victory today in its final game before the All-Star break, Cleveland will take the four-game series with three wins. The Indians have won seven of their last 10 games, but remain stuck in second place behind the red-hot White Sox, who lead the Central Division by three games.
“Ubaldo continues to give us good outings. This is No. 7 in a row,” manager Manny Acta said of Jimenez, who allowed just two runs on five hits, while striking out eight over six innings. “He had very good command of the strike zone. He pitched ahead the whole night.”
A midseason adjustment has appeared to pay off for Jimenez, who has allowed more than three runs in just one of his last seven starts, while striking out at least seven in four of the outings. He has posted a sub-3.00 ERA over the span.
“I’ve been able to go out and do it over a bunch of starts in a row,” Jimenez said. “That’s the only way to tell that it’s getting better.”
Jimenez (8-7, 4.50 ERA) discovered early in his outing that the slider and split-finger change-up were his most effective pitches. He employed them often, estimating that he threw his fastball less than 50 percent of the time.
“They have a very good lineup. They’re very aggressive,” Jimenez said the Rays hitters. “If you’re able to throw your breaking ball for strikes, why not?”
Jimenez gave up a two-run home run to Luke Scott in the fourth inning, but retired seven of the last eight batters he faced.
The Indians built an early lead, scoring five times in the first three innings off Rays starter Matt Moore, who was 4-0 over his last six starts. It was the Indians’ fourth straight win against a left-handed starter, improving them to 10-16 in that department for the season.
Offensive production came from unlikely sources for the Indians, who played without two of their top weapons — second baseman Jason Kipnis and designated hitter Travis Hafner.
Left fielder Aaron Cunningham capped a three-run second inning with a two-out double that Acta thought loomed large.
“Cunningham’s hit was probably the biggest hit of the game for us,” Acta said.
Designated hitter Shelley Duncan contributed as well, hitting a two-run homer in the eighth to put the game out of reach. It was Duncan’s fourth homer in his last six games. Backup catcher Lou Marson also went 1-for-3 with an RBI double in the second.
“We had an All-Star bench. All the scrubs were out there,” joked Cunningham. “It’s a big thing. That’s really our job, to go out and give those guys a day off. If we’re able to get a win, that’s big.”
Team wins are the ones the Indians are most likely to be celebrating the rest of the year, according to Acta.
“We need everybody to contribute,” he said. “We don’t have a powerhouse here. We need guys to play well in roles. Everybody here needs to chip in for us to be a club that’s going to be able to compete and win this division. It’s as simple as that.”
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• WHO: Cleveland vs. Tampa Bay
• TIME: 1:05
• WHERE: Progressive Field
• PITCHERS: McAllister (3-1, 3.93 ERA) vs. Shields (8-5, 4.11)
• TV/RADIO: Channel 3, SportsTime Ohio; WEOL 930-AM, WTAM 1100-AM