CLEVELAND: The good news for the Indians: Ubaldo Jimenez was throwing fastballs 93 to 94 mph Tuesday night.
Why can’t that be the whole story? Because nothing is straightforward when it comes to analyzing Jimenez and his so-called craft. That means there was bad news as well.
Jimenez couldn’t locate the plate with a GPS device, as the Tribe dropped a 7-2 decision to the Boston Red Sox at Progressive Field. Or maybe he just didn’t bring his smartphone to the mound.
After just 1⅔ innings, Indians manager Terry Francona pointed out the way to the dugout for Jimenez, who never returned to the field after giving up seven runs on only two hits.
How can that be? Jimenez walked five, all in the second inning, after retiring the side in order in the first on three ground balls.
“In the first inning, he was crisp and down,” Francona said. “In the second inning, he didn’t throw strikes. He didn’t want to give up any runs, and he ended giving up a crooked number.”
Jimenez forced in two runs with walks, gave up another on a line drive sacrifice fly, and yielded still another on a single that bounced off the glove of a diving Asdrubal Cabrera at short.
“In the first inning, I felt good, and the ball was coming out of my hand good,” Jimenez said. “In the second inning, I couldn’t control the ball. I don’t know why. I really felt good, I just wasn’t able to close out the inning after there were two outs.”
Fearing that Jimenez would be unable to keep the deficit to single digits, Francona summoned Cody Allen from the bullpen with the bases loaded and two outs.
Allen, who pitched well, for the next 2⅔ innings, gave up a bases-clearing double to Mike Napoli on a 3-and-2 pitch, with all the runs being charged to Jimenez. Napoli also started the inning with a double.
Despite the unfortunate pitch, Francona was not critical of Allen.
“That was a tough spot for him,” Francona said and went on to praise the bullpen for its heroic effort.
Because of the workmanship of Allen, Nick Hagadone, Rich Hill and Bryan Shaw, Francona will have the meat of his relief corps for tonight’s game: closer Chris Perez, setup man Vinnie Pestano and seventh-inning specialist Joe Smith.
Jimenez has endured two subpar outings in a row, neither resembling the other. A week ago against the New York Yankees, he gave up seven runs, seven hits and three walks in 4⅓ innings.
Finding the plate was not an issue. In fact, one of his problems was finding too much of the plate. To wit: Travis Hafner’s three-run homer and Robinson Cano’s solo blast.
Jimenez’s fastball was loafing its way to the plate at the shockingly low speed of 88 mph. The reason: His mechanics let him down, which is the case whenever he has a bad start.
“The last start I didn’t have anything,” Jimenez said Tuesday night. “Today I felt great; I just wasn’t able to control the ball.”
Francona said that between starts, Jimenez worked on specific elements of his delivery.
“Mickey [pitching coach Mickey Callaway] worked on his direction to the plate and pounding the strike zone downwhill,” Francona said. “That’s what he did in the first inning.”
Asked if he was disappointed in his past two starts, Jimenez said, “Yes. I worked really hard in the offseason and in spring training, but it’s not showing up now. … This is as low as I can get.”
Obviously, two bad starts do not make a season, and Jimenez is in no imminent danger of losing his spot in the rotation.
“You can be frustrated or keep working,” Francona said. “We’re going to keep working. We want to get it right.”
Rallying from a seven-run deficit is no picnic for an offense that is operating on all cylinders, and the Tribe attack has hardly been a juggernaut, partly because almost every night one or two players are missing from the lineup with injuries.
Tuesday night, it was Jason Kipnis and Michael Bourn. Carlos Santana returned to the lineup after missing four games because of a sore thumb, and he looked like he hadn’t played in several days.
Or maybe Sox starter Felix Doubront was totally responsible for the Indians’ inability to mount effective rallies. Doubront gave up two runs, four hits and the walks in five innings.
“Doubront had kind of a funny line score,” Francona said. “We had him up to 100 pitches in five innings but didn’t have much to show for it. We couldn’t get the big hit when we needed it.”
Sheldon Ocker can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Indians blog at http://www.ohio.com/indians. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SheldonOckerABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.