By Sheldon Ocker
Beacon Journal sports writer
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OAKLAND, Calif.: Ubaldo Jimenez set the tone by throwing a no-hitter for 5⅔ innings, and the Indians’ offense came out of its shell late in the game to produce a 7-1 win over the Oakland Athletics on Saturday night at Oakland Coliseum.
If not for just enough wildness to keep everyone on the edge of their seats, Jimenez’s mastery over the A’s looked almost too easy. “Yeah, definitely,” said Jimenez when asked if he was thinking about a no-hitter. “That’s something you realize right away. Everyone who got on base walked.”
Manager Terry Francona got Rich Hill up in the bullpen before Jimenez (9-7, 4.00 ERA) had given up a hit. The manager’s instincts were correct, but he let Jimenez go for two more batters in the sixth.
The A’s abbreviated rally began when with one out, Jimenez hit Josh Reddick with a pitch and Yoenis Cespedes walked. By that tme, Hill had begun to loosen up, but Jimenez struck out Brandon Moss and had only retire Josh Donaldson to get out of the inning with his no-hitter intact.
Instead, Donaldson lined a single to center to score Reddick, and Hill jogged in from the bullpen. Until the hit, Donaldson had faced Jimenez four times, striking out three times and walking once.
Hill snuffed out the rally by striking out pinch hitter Chris Young.
Was it difficult for Francona to remove a starter who had given up one hit?
“You’re in the sixth inning,” he said. “We’re just trying to win a game.”
Added Jimenez, “I was just trying to finish the inning. That’s the only thing that was in my mind.”
The Tribe bullpen continued to stifle the A’s. Bryan Shaw delivered a scoreless seventh and Joe Smith got the side out in the eighth, despite giving up two hits.
Jimenez’s totals: 5⅔ innings pitched, one hit and five walks allowed, eight strikeouts. His pitch count, despite all the walks, reached only 105.
Command of the strike zone continues to be an issue for Jimenez, and that usually is the reason he doesn’t make it to the seventh inning.
“Whenever he gets to the sixth, that’s when he has a hard time,” Francona said. “He seems to run into a wall then, but if he gives up one run, I’ll take it.”
In both the third and fourth innings, Jimenez walked two batters, but he extricated himself from trouble rather easily.
The Indians’ firepower was sporadic but effective, especially in light of the way Jimenez was pitching.
Right-hander Dan Straily (6-7, 4.22 ERA) gave up Nick Swisher’s 13th home run of the season with one out and nobody on in the first inning then walked himself into trouble after two were out. After Carlos Santana and Michael Brantley walked, Asdrubal Cabrera snapped an 0-for-20 skid with a single to center, scoring Santana.
It was the first time the Tribe had scored in the first inning since Aug. 3 at Miami, and the first time since July 24 in Seattle that the offense put up more than one run in the first.
Cabrera’s first-inning hit did not end his contributions at the plate. In the sixth, Brantley doubled with one out, and Cabrera followed with an RBI double to push the Tribe lead to 3-0.
After the Athletics scored in the sixth, the Tribe neutralized the run immediately, when Michael Bourn hit his fifth home run of the year.
Moreover, in the ninth, consecutive two-out singles by Stubbs, Bourn, Swisher and Kipnis produced three more runs.
“I felt like the score was not indicative of the game,” Francona said.