Right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez has been a work in progress since arriving in a much ballyhooed trade in 2011, and he proved that was still the case Tuesday night in the series opener with Boston at Progressive Field.
Offering up his second straight disappointing effort in three starts this season, Jimenez paved the way for a 7-2 loss to the Red Sox, who scored all of their runs in a fateful second inning for the Indians.
Jimenez walked five batters and threw 44 pitches alone in the second, recording just two outs in the inning before he was mercifully removed by manager Terry Francona.
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“The first inning, he went out. He was crisp and down,” Francona said. “The second inning, he just didn’t throw strikes. That’s a frustrating way to play for everybody.”
Jimenez left with the bases loaded and to a resounding chorus of boos from the sparse crowd (9,143), with reliever Cody Allen surrendering a three-run double to the first batter he faced — Mike Napoli.
It put the wraps on another poor effort from Jimenez that saw him allow all seven Boston runs on two hits and five walks over 1 2/3 innings.
“I felt really good,” said Jimenez, who worked the second-shortest outing of his career. “I thought the ball was coming really good out of my hand, but I just couldn’t control it that inning. I just lost it. I don’t even know. I’d say I was really good in the first inning. … That inning I felt like the ball was coming out of my hand really good. But everything just failed on me. It was really bad.”
Had Jimenez pitched masterfully, it might not have been enough for Cleveland, which failed to generate much of anything off Red Sox starter Felix Doubront and relievers Clayton Mortensen and Alex Wilson.
The Indians scored twice off Doubront over five innings, once on a sacrifice fly from Mike Aviles in the second, and again on a passed ball with the bases loaded in the fifth.
The bases were still full in the fifth when Cleveland slugger Mark Reynolds popped up to end the inning.
Jimenez (0-2, 11.25 ERA) worked extensively this offseason with new pitching coach Mickey Callaway and he and the Indians felt as though they corrected a mechanical flaw that led to more positive spring training results. But after a sparkling season debut in Toronto, Jimenez has resembled the same ineffective pitcher he’s been during the majority of his tenure in Cleveland.
He’s allowed 14 runs on nine hits and eight walks over his last two starts, covering just six innings. In his 45 career starts for the Indians, Jimenez has surrendered three or more runs 29 times. His last 17 outings for Cleveland have included a 1-12 record and 7.27 ERA, with his last win coming Aug. 9 of last year.
“I worked really hard in the offseason and spring training,” he said. “It’s not going good right now. The last two games have been really bad. I don’t want to keep going down. That’s pretty much as low as I can get. Five walks in one inning, it’s crazy.
“The last one before this one I didn’t feel like I had anything. The fastball wasn’t there. But this start, I just felt too good. But I just couldn’t control it.”
There are few other options outside of Jimenez for the Indians, who will continue to work with the pitcher before pulling the plug on their No. 2 starter.
“You can be frustrated or you can try to make it better,” Francona said. “I think we choose to try to make it better. As long as he keeps working, we’re going to work hard. And we want to get it right.”
If there was a silver lining for the Indians it came in another stellar performance from the bullpen. After taking over for Jimenez, the relief combination of Allen, Nick Hagadone, Rich Hill and Bryan Shaw shut Boston out on four hits, while striking out a whopping 15 batters.
The two teams took the field a day after the bombing at the Boston Marathon. A moment of silence was observed prior to the game, with both teams wearing black arm bands. Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline,” a Fenway Park favorite, was played prior to first pitch.
“It was obviously not a normal game,” said longtime Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia. “The stuff before the game and during the game, it’s in your mind. We’re obviously thinking about what’s going on back home.”