CLEVELAND: Forget the Ubaldo Jimenez-Justin Verlander matchup that fizzled early.
Besides, Verlander never has been an Indians killer. If Tribe fans are looking for a villain, Miguel Cabrera is their man. He doubled home one run and ensured a 11-7 win for the Detroit Tigers with a two-run homer in the eighth Wednesday night, but that was hardly the entire story.
This was a home run that shouldn’t have happened. Michael Bourn retreated almost to the center-field fence to make the catch — a glove save and a beauty — when the ball struck his glove and bounced up and over the wall to turn a two-run advantage into a four-run lead.
It was Cabrera’s third home run of the season against the Tribe and his 13th overall, his lucky 13th.
Maybe it wouldn’t have mattered, but the Indians had trailed by seven runs in the middle of the fifth inning and seemed to have the Tigers reeling. That took awhile, as the teams stopped play twice while it rained, the delays lasting a total of one-hour, 50 minutes.
Fans who thought they had seen the last of the bad Jimenez were in for a rude awakening. Out of the blue, the ineffective Ubaldo showed himself with a vengeance, giving up multiple runs in the very first inning.
The first three batters of the game all got hits, including Cabrera, who doubled home a run with runners on first and second. Jimenez slowed the pace of the Tigers assault temporarily, allowing only sacrifice fly for the rest of the inning, but there were more innings to come.
Plummeting to his most discouraging worst, Jimenez gave up four runs in the third inning, in a rally that began with consecutive one-out walks. After that, Prince Fielder doubled home a run, Victor Martinez hit a sacrifice fly and Jhonny Peralta and Brayan Pena swatted RBI doubles.
Jimenez struggled through the next inning — giving up a single and hitting a batter — but did not allow another run. He gave way to a reliever after that, having given up six runs, seven hits and three walks, using 96 pitches in only four innings.
The outing was all the more disappointing because Jimenez had shown clear signs that he was turning around his career. In his previous four starts, he was 3-0 with a 1.91 ERA
One awful outing doesn’t mean that Jimenez is destined to labor in vain the rest of the season, but there was little to be encouraged about in in his latest performance.
If Jimenez had been only a little more adept at retiring Tigers hitters, Verlander’s sub-par outing might have cost him.
One of two things usually happens when Verlander faces the Tribe: He pitches well and loses or does not get credit for the decision, or he pitches poorly and loses. Wednesday night, he encountered a third option.
Verlander gave up five runs and 10 hits in five innings, despite striking out nine, and he was fortunate that a couple of hard hit drives to the outfield were caught.
He got to the fifth inning with 9-2 lead and gave up an RBI single to Michael Brantley and a two-run homer to Carlos Santana, then it started to rain. Verlander struck out Jason Giambi for the first out, but he needed two more to get credit for the win.
After a 62 minute delay, Verlander came back out (most pitchers would not have been given that chance following that much inactivity) and retired the side in the fifth. As long as the Indians didn’t tie the score, Verlander would be the Tigers’ pitcher of record.
David Huff put Verlander’s win in jeopardy by giving up three runs in the Detroit fifth, thus giving the rain clouds a chance to reach Progressive Field.
After Verlander left, Drew Smyly pitched the sixth and gave up a leadoff home run to Yan Gomes and a two-out RBI single to Brantley, his third hit and RBI of the game, to trim the Tigers’ advantage to a mere two runs.
It stayed that way until Cabrera’s remarkable home run.
Sheldon Ocker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.