CLEVELAND — Throughout his tenure, the Indians have watched the good and bad from right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez. Now, they’re seeing his best.
Another quality outing from Jimenez evened the series at a game apiece Saturday afternoon, with the Indians blanking the Rays 5-0.
Jimenez was on the mound for eight of the nine innings, limiting Tampa Bay to four hits and a walk to help Cleveland to its third win in four games. More importantly, he preserved a bullpen that was taxed following an outrageously long series opener Friday that featured four hours and 49 minutes of rain delays and didn’t end until 2:53 a.m.
“The guys had a really crazy game (Friday) night,” said Jimenez, who left Progressive Field in the fourth inning of the rain-filled affair to get a proper night’s sleep before his start. “So, definitely, it was a good win.”
“He was very good on a day when the only two people out there that weren’t tired were the starting pitchers,” Indians manager Terry Francona said of Jimenez, who allowed just two runners to reach second base. “He gave us everything we needed. He pounded the strike zone. I’m not big on rating (single) performances, but he was very good.”
Jimenez, who allowed just one hit over the first five innings and retired 11 straight at one point, has been very good for an extended spell — something the Indians haven’t seen since his arrival in 2011.
Over his last seven starts, Jimenez is 4-1 with a 2.74 ERA. Of the seven outings, Jimenez has allowed more than two runs just once — six runs over four innings in an 11-7 loss to Detroit on May 22.
“I feel great,” Jimenez said. “I have a lot of confidence.”
It appears as though veteran designated hitter Jason Giambi has found some confidence as well after a lengthy slump early in the season. Giambi, 42, drove in Cleveland’s first three runs — two with his fifth home run of the year that put the Indians in front 2-0 in the second inning off Rays starter Chris Archer, who made his season debut.
“His presence at the plate is very impressive,” Francona said of Giambi, who gave the Indians a 3-0 lead with a two-out single in the third. “He always has good at-bats. He’s always been a good RBI guy.”
Giambi, who has 19 RBIs in 21 games, has gone deep in each of the last three games he’s appeared. He is hitting .471 (8-for-17) with runners in scoring position.
“It just feels like he’s been so clutch for us,” first baseman Nick Swisher said. “It just goes to show you, he’s still got that thump.”
Another two-run homer — this time from shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera in the fifth inning — provided the final count.
Cleveland needed just one pitcher out of its bullpen, right-hander Vinnie Pestano. With his velocity returning to its normal 91-93 mph range, he retired three of the four hitters he faced in the ninth inning.
Both teams were understandably gassed after playing the second game of the series a little more than 10 hours after the completion of the opener.
“It’s part of the job,” said Swisher, whose club trails first-place Detroit by a half-game in the Central Division standings. “We get paid to get out there and perform every day.”
Francona slept at Progressive Field after the marathon evening.
“Everybody’s tired,” he said. “Show up, have 12 pieces of bacon and a Red Bull and go get ’em.”
The eight innings was a season high for Jimenez, who produced his first quality start of the year in six tries at home.
Tampa Bay had its season-long six-game winning streak snapped, while the Indians improved to 16-5 over their last 21 games at Progressive Field.
Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7136 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter at CAwesomeheimer.