CLEVELAND: These are not the same old Indians, nor are their opponents the same old New York (invincible) Yankees. So why was the result so familiar?
The Bronx Bombers met little resistance in beating the Indians 11-6 in the home opener Monday afternoon and evening at Progressive Field.
Almost everything changed in the composition of these clubs in only one four-month offseason, yet nothing changed in the mano-a-mano department.
Then again, three more games remain in the series, so there’s plenty of time for an Indians turnaround. How might that happen? Someone will have to start making a lot more effective pitches for the home team.
In addition to losing the game, the Tribe might lose catcher Carlos Santana for an indeterminate amount of time after he was struck on the left thumb by a pitch thrown by Chris Perez in the ninth inning.
“It’s way too early to tell anything,” manager Terry Francona said. “He’s still being evaluated. He’s going to be sore at the very least.”
X-rays on Santana’s thumb were negative. He is listed as day to day
Ubaldo Jimenez (0-1, 6.79 ERA) performed well in his first start last week by giving up one run, three hits and two walks against the Toronto Blue Jays.
Against the Yankees, he gave up seven runs, seven hits and three walks in 4⅓ innings, using 91 pitches. Among the hits he allowed was a three-run homer to Travis Hafner (go figure) and a solo shot to Robinson Cano, who also went deep against Matt Albers.
“Coming out, it was a struggle for him to get loose,” Francona said. “I thought he fought his mechanics. His pitches were flat, and he had no deception. Fortunately, he went just far enough so that we didn’t have to empty our bullpen.”
The excitement surrounding a home opener had nothing to do with Jimenez’s problems.
“No, no, I just had a bad day,” he said. “I got to the mound, and I didn’t have a good feel for my fastball, my breaking pitch, nothing.”
Fans and the Tribe’s deep thinkers will have to wait awhile longer — maybe a lot longer — to learn whether Jimenez’s first start was a tease, or whether the debacle Monday was a mere blip on the highway of rejuvenated careers.
It is hoped for Jimenez’s sake that he has nowhere to go but up after a 2012 season that saw him post a 9-17 record and American League rankings near or at the bottom in several key areas, including a 5.40 ERA that put Jimenez in the bottom three.
The Yankees can’t put their best foot forward. One player, Derek Jeter, has only one functioning foot, because of a lingering ankle injury that required surgery.
Alex Rodriguez won’t play for months, and Curtis Granderson is out after breaking a bone in his forearm.
Adding to that, Mark Teixeira is on the disabled list with an injury to his right arm.
In other words, the Yankees spotted Jimenez about half a lineup, proving that even modestly talented hitters have no trouble homing in on bad pitches.
It didn’t take long for Jimenez to find trouble. With one out in the first, he walked Cano and gave up a single to Kevin Youkilis before Hafner drove a 2-and-0 pitch over the wall in center.
Asked if he was concerned about the sub-par start, Jimenez said, “A little bit. I wanted to keep it going from my first outing. But you have to start thinking about your next game and forget this one.”
The Indians bailed out Jimenez in the bottom of the first by scoring three times to tie the score. Two of the Tribe’s three hits barely left the infield, and two runs were produced with sacrifice flies from Jason Kipnis and Mark Reynolds.
In other words, the Wahoos weren’t knocking the cover off the ball, so the key for starter Hiroki Kuroda was to get command of the strike zone.
And he did. After walking two in the first inning, Kuroda limited the Tribe to two more walks and two more hits through 5⅓ scoreless innings.
“We had him on the ropes,” Francona said. “We knew he bruised his finger the other day. To his credit, he went back out there [after the first inning] and did a really good job.”
The three runs tacked on by the Indians in the eighth had little to do with the outcome. But the few fans among the sellout crowd of 41,567 who remained enjoyed the show, which included a home run by Mike Aviles, Michael Bourne’s triple and Reynolds’ double.