December 18, 2014

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Indians 3, Blue Jays 0: Tribe blanks Toronto behind 6 innings from Ubaldo Jimenez

CLEVELAND — The Indians got their typical brief outing from right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez. On Tuesday night against Toronto, it was more than adequate.

Jimenez tossed six shutout innings and Cleveland hitters did just enough to open a three-game series with a 3-0 victory over the Blue Jays at Progressive Field.

Jimenez wasn’t dominant, allowing five hits and walking a pair, but his effort was good enough to notch his seventh win of the season and contribute to a much-needed victory.

More photos below.

“He did a good job,” said manager Terry Francona, whose club won for just the second time in seven games. “There was some traffic for the better part of the night, but he pitched around some things and never let it spiral or get out of hand. There was a lot of things to like.

“In a perfect world, he goes seven (innings) instead of six, but the hope is that with more outings that starts happening more.”

Jimenez (7-4, 4.37 ERA) had runners aboard in all but one inning — ironically, his final one — but just one advanced to third base.

“I guess my slider was really good,” said Jimenez, who struck out four, two of them to end innings with runners on. “Every time we got in trouble, I used it a lot. The guys played great. We got a shutout.”

Jimenez credited catcher Carlos Santana with calling a quality game.

“I don’t think I had to shake him off once,” he said.

In what was billed as yet another bounce-back season for Jimenez, the right-hander has been better, but still nowhere near the pitcher the Indians traded for in 2011.

He’s earned wins in four of his last five decisions, but has lasted longer than six innings in just three of his 19 starts. His effort Tuesday was his longest since June 1.

“It’s probably not as consistent as I want it to be,” said Jimenez, who is 4-1 with a 2.88 ERA over his last nine starts. “But I’ve been able to compete with what I’ve got every five days. I wish I could pitch longer, but I’ve been able to compete.”

Francona chose to view Jimenez’s performance thus far in a more positive light.

“I think he’s done a pretty darn good job,” he said. “I think he should be proud of himself. What happened last year was difficult for him. Every time he goes out there, we expect to win. He gives us a chance to win.”

Jimenez had little breathing room Tuesday, with Toronto starter Josh Johnson also working an effective outing — and for longer.

Johnson went seven innings, allowing two runs on three hits.

The Indians scored both their runs off Johnson in the fourth inning, with Asdrubal Cabrera drawing a one-out walk before Jason Kipnis, Nick Swisher and Michael Brantley reached on base hits — the last two RBI singles.

Cleveland added a run off the Blue Jays bullpen in the eighth inning on a sacrifice fly from Cabrera, who scored Drew Stubbs. Stubbs started the inning with a double.

That turned it over to closer Chris Perez, who allowed consecutive one-out singles but was still able to notch his fourth straight save since leaving the disabled list with right shoulder inflammation.

“It’s nice to see,” Francona said. “For him to feel good healthwise, that’s a real good sign. His ball has life and he’s down in the zone. That’s encouraging.”

The Indians were a wounded bunch after dropping three of four to the Tigers at home, but after a quality performance in the opener against Toronto, they trail first-place Detroit by 2½ games in the Central Division.

“This was a nice bounce-back game,” Francona said. “We didn’t do a lot offensively, but we were crisp. And, again, it all starts with pitching.”

It was the Indians’ 11th shutout win, which leads the American League and trails only Pittsburgh (12) in the majors. It is the most shutout victories for the Indians since recording 13 in 2008.

Tonight

  • WHO: Cleveland vs. Toronto
  • TIME: 7:05
  • WHERE: Progressive Field
  • PITCHERS: Masterson (10-7, 3.78 ERA) vs. Rogers (3-4, 3.84)
  • TV/RADIO: STO; WEOL 930-AM, WTAM 1100-AM, WMMS 100.7-FM

Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7136 or cassenheimer@chroniclet.com. Like him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.