CHICAGO: It’s not a crisis yet, but if Ubaldo Jimenez persists in underachieving, the Indians might be on their way to a calamity.
Jimenez was out of Tuesday night’s 7-2 loss to the Sox before completing the fifth inning.
Not all of the chaos around him was his fault, but he contributed more than his share of incompetence to the debacle, allowing seven runs (four earned), eight hits and six walks in 42/3 innings. He also gave up home runs to Gordon Beckham and A.J. Pierzynski, who has hit three of his five against the Tribe.
Jimenez’s earned-run average rose to 5.02, and he is averaging 6.3 walks per nine innings plus a home run allowed every 52/3 innings. His hit total of 30 in 282/3 innings would be no more problematic than Derek Lowe’s 35 hits in 312/3 innings, but when Jimenez’s hits and walks are combined, he is averaging 16 baserunners per nine innings.
The statistics are revealing enough, but watching Jimenez (5.02 ERA) throw 105 pitches in less than five innings is excruciating. To put that in perspective, if Jimenez had pitched a complete game, it would have taken him 203 pitches, and his astronomical pitch count has been a problem all season and earlier.
“”Ubaldo is working on some mechanical things,’’ manager Many Acta said. “”I think he showed some improvement, but he still did not throw enough strikes (51 percent).’’
Acta said that it likely would take Jimenez at least a couple of more starts before the mechanical adjustments began to take hold.
“”I’m working on creating more power with my right shoulder,’’ Jimenez said. “”It’s not just for the velocity, but my right side is open. I didn’t know until the pitching coach (Scott Radinsky) showed me video of the way I was throwing in 2010 compared to now.’’
Jimenez felt the changes were starting to kick in.
“”I think I was way better than my last start,’’ he said.
Keep in mind that when the Tribe acquired Jimenez last summer from the Rockies for its best two pitching prospects – Drew Pomeranz and Alex White – the club’s deep thinkers thought they were getting a potential No. 1 starter (think former Indians C.C. Sabathia and Cliff Lee). So far, Jimenez hasn’t been close.
However, there were some mitigating circumstances beyond his control Tuesday night. It was called the third inning and might rank as the Tribe’s worst performance in the field for the decade.
Jimenez was trailing 1-0 going into the inning but gave up a leadoff homer to Beckham. Then the fun started. The Sox shoot off fireworks after every home run, and in their wake the smoke obscures virtually the entire field. That might be why Jason Donald failed to see Alejandro De Aza’s routine pop fly to third that fell for a double.
“”I don’t know what Donald saw from his angle,’’ Acta said. “”But I saw it all the way.’’
Alexei Ramirez followed with a grounder to sure-handed shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera, who fumbled it for an error. Two unfortunate plays in a row did give Jimenez license to walk the next two batters but he did, forcing in a run.
Pierzynski then hit a pop up to Cabrera, who dropped the ball as he climbed the mound to catch it. That play cost the Tribe nothing, because it was ruled an infield fly and just another out. Alex Rios bounced into a force play to score another run, and Dayan Viciedo beat out an infield hit to drive in the fourth run of the inning.
“”We just didn’t play good defense,’’ Acta said. “”We didn’t catch the ball on the ground, we didn’t catch the ball in the air, and we didn’t cover bases. We can’t afford to play defense that way.’’
That was more than the Sox needed, because the Indians could do nothing against Chris Sale (3-1, 2.81 ERA), who has manhandled them twice this season. Sale delivered six strong innings, allowing one run, three hits and one walk. In two starts against Cleveland, he is 2-0, having given up just two runs and six hits in 122/3 innings.
“”Once again, we couldn’t handle Sale,’’ Acta said. “”He handles us very well.’’
However, the Tribe’s homerless streak finally ended after 11 games in the seventh inning, when Shelley Duncan drove a ball over the wall in left for his third homer of the season.