BALTIMORE: In a battle of two twos, as in the men who held the No. 2 spot in the Indians’ rotation this year and last, the Indians really had the ace.
On Saturday in Camden Yards, the Indians’ Corey Kluber faced off against the Baltimore Orioles’ Ubaldo Jimenez, who spent the previous 2½ seasons with the Tribe, and Kluber won in a landslide. Kluber scattered five hits in seven scoreless innings and the Indians pounced on Jimenez for five runs and romped to a 9-0 victory before a crowd of 36,873.
The most consistent pitcher in the Indians’ starting rotation, Kluber (5-3, 3.10) came into the day tied for fourth in the American League in strikeouts with 74 and added nine more to that total. He’s fanned at least eight in seven of his 11 starts.
But Kluber and Indians manager Terry Francona couldn’t care less.
“I’m not all that shook up about the strikeouts,” Francona said. “There’s times maybe when you need them and there’s going to be other times when a team’s approach is going to be different, they’ll try to put the ball in play. He’s working ahead in the count and his stuff’s good and he’s attacking.”
The Orioles barely threatened against Kluber, putting two men on base only twice, in the first and fifth innings. In both cases, the Orioles mustered only a single and walk. But Kluber got Nelson Cruz to fly out to right to end the first and struck out Adam Jones to finish the fifth.
“I was throwing a lot of strikes, the biggest thing was probably working inside and outside,” Kluber said. “The key is getting ahead early and staying ahead in the count and not letting them get comfortable up there.”
In February, Jimenez (2-6, 4.98) was signed to a four-year, $50 million contract, the longest given to an Orioles pitcher. After an ugly April, when he went 0-4 with a 6.59 ERA, he was 2-1 with a 2.19 ERA in May coming in.
But the Indians worked the pitch count against Jimenez, especially first baseman Carlos Santana, who drew two of the five walks Jimenez issued. The Tribe chased Jimenez in a five-run fifth, when Mike Aviles and Lonnie Chisenhall contributed run-scoring singles.
“I pretty much beat myself because I was walking guys,” Jimenez said. “They got four hits, only one hard one, the other ones were ground balls, bloopers.
“I got ahead, but I couldn’t put it away. I was in the zone. Some of the pitches were close, but I didn’t get a call.”
Orioles manager Buck Showalter lifted Jimenez in the fifth after 99 pitches.
Francona said Kluber was establishing himself last season until a finger strain in August sent him to the 15-day disabled list.
“Being consistent is such a huge factor in becoming a really good major-league pitcher, that’s what Klubes is doing,” Francona said. “He was on his way last year when he had that finger [injury] that kind of got in the way. This is not like a shock. This has been coming.”
Kluber is pitching like the staff’s ace, although that’s not a title he wants to wrest from Justin Masterson.
“Nope. Masty’s our ace,” Kluber said.
As shortstop Justin Sellers observed, “Better to have two than one.”
Marla Ridenour can be reached at email@example.com. Read the her blog at www.ohio.com/marla. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MRidenourABJ and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/abj.sports.