On the same day that the Indians fired pitching coach Scott Radinsky, Ubaldo Jimenez looked like the pitcher they thought they were getting in July 2010. Jimenez struck out 10 and made only one mistake, a pitch he served up for a two-run homer to Adrian Gonzalez, en route to a 5-3 series-opening victory over the Boston Red Sox to win their second game in a row.
Pitchers tend to take it personally when the pitching coach gets fired. There has been no indication as to what kind of relationship the pitching staff had with Radinsky, but the statistics didn't lie. Entering Thursday night's game, the Indians were the third-worst team in baseball in terms of ERA and had issued the second-most walks. Since the All-Star break, Indians arms posted a 5.55 ERA. As is usually the case in sports, when you can't fire the players, you fire the coach. That's what the Indians did on Thursday.
Radinsky's firing is nothing more than coincidental when it comes to the game that Jimenez pitched tonight. It marked just the fourth time in 23 starts that Jimenez walked one or less. He struck out 10, a season-high, both for himself and for Indians pitchers. It looked as though it would be a difficult night for Jimenez when he walked leadoff hitter Jacoby Ellsbury on five pitches to start the game. Ellsbury stole second without a throw. After Carl Crawford flew out to center, Ellsbury swiped third without a throw. To Jimenez's credit, he buckled down and got out of the inning, stranding Ellsbury at third.
In the other move that the Indians made today, they placed Travis Hafner on the 15-day DL and recalled Jason Donald. Jason Kipnis was originally in the lineup, but was scratched late with a stiff neck. Donald took his place and position. He also led off the game with a home run, an opposite field shot down the right field line to put the Tribe on top 1-0. With two outs, Carlos Santana singled and Michael Brantley doubled, but Shelley Duncan struck out to end the inning.
Both pitchers took turns putting up zeroes as Jimenez struck out the side in the second and Felix Doubront used an assortment of breaking pitches to keep Indians hitters off balance. In the fourth, Jimenez made one seemingly innocuous mistake. He grooved a 1-2 fastball to Dustin Pedroia that was laced for a single. The innocuous mistake became a big mistake when Adrian Gonzalez took him 395 feet into the right field seats to put the Sox on top 2-1.
The Red Sox extended their lead to 3-1 on an Ellsbury single, a stolen base, and a Pedroia single. It was the final time that they scored on the night.
With Jimenez giving the Indians offense a chance to come back, they put Jimenez in line for the win in the bottom of the fifth. Lou Marson got the rally started with one out by singling to right field. Donald walked to send Marson to second. Asdrubal Cabrera had one of his best at bats in quite some time, smoking a double down the left field line after a lengthy at bat to plate Marson and get Donald to third. After Choo walked, Santana ripped a ground ball just past a diving Mike Aviles at short to plate another run. Brantley followed with a great at bat, lofting a sac fly to left field. The Indians reclaimed the lead and energized Jimenez, who struck out the side in the sixth.
Jimenez came back out for the seventh with over 100 pitches and gave up a leadoff double before getting pulled. Despite giving up three runs in six innings, it was actually a terrific outing for Jimenez. Not only did he strike out 10 and walk only one, but 70 of his 106 pitches were strikes, one of his best percentages of the season. Tony Sipp got out of the seventh without any damage, preserving Jimenez's shot at a win.
Vinnie Pestano had a rough eighth inning, by his standards, allowing a couple of one-out baserunners before successfully getting through the inning. In the bottom half of the inning, the Tribe added an insurance run on a couple of hard hit ground ball singles, a sacrifice bunt, and a fielder's choice. With the 5-3 lead, the Indians squandered an opportunity with the bases loaded and two outs, when Choo struck out following an intentional walk issued to Cabrera.
Chris Perez entered in a save situation, looking to get back on the right track after two consecutive blown saves. Now beardless, Perez fell behind the leadoff hitter 2-0, but then recorded three straight outs for save #30.
With the win, the Indians improve to 52-60. Ubaldo Jimenez picked up his ninth win of the season and the Indians beat a lefty.
Stat of the Night: Vinnie Pestano worked his 21st consecutive scoreless inning tonight. That's the longest streak by an Indians reliever since Paul Assenmacher in 1997. He went 23.1 innings.
Player of the Game: Ubaldo Jimenez. He commanded his pitches, threw strikes, and had swing-and-miss stuff. It'd be great if he could find consistency.
Tomorrow's Game: The Indians and Red Sox continue their series with a 7:05 Friday night tilt. Chris Seddon takes the mound for the Tribe against Clay Buchholz.