Ubaldo Jimenez had one of the best seasons of his career with the Cleveland Indians in 2013 before signing a $50 million contract with the Baltimore Orioles in the offseason.
Though he hasn’t exactly lived up to expectations while also missing time with an injury, his new club is in a much better situation than his old when it comes to the playoff race.
Jimenez returns to Cleveland for the first time since his departure Saturday night as Baltimore looks to avoid its first consecutive losses since late June.
After spending the previous 2 1/2 seasons with the Indians and going 13-9 with a 3.30 ERA – his most victories and best ERA since 2010 with Colorado – last season, Jimenez (4-8, 4.51 ERA) signed a four-year deal with the Orioles in February.
Jimenez faced his former team May 24 and allowed five runs while walking five in four innings of a 9-0 home loss, one of nine outings this season that he’s given up at least four runs.
The right-hander also missed more than a month with a sprained right ankle before coming off the disabled list Saturday to give up three runs in six innings of a 10-3 win over St. Louis.
"It felt great," Jimenez said. "It felt like every pitch means something right now because everyone is aware of what we are doing (in the playoff race)."
Jimenez has never pitched as a visitor at Progressive Field, where he’s 13-12 with a 3.53 ERA. He’s 2-2 with a 3.70 ERA in nine road starts this season compared to 2-6 with a 5.21 ERA in Baltimore.
The Orioles (69-51) have the most road wins in the AL with 35, but they couldn’t solve Corey Kluber in Friday’s opener before falling 2-1 in 11 innings. J.J. Hardy, who missed the previous four games with a sprained left thumb, tied it in the eighth with a two-out single off reliever Bryan Shaw.
Hardy is 13 for 27 with two homers and eight RBIs over his last seven contests.
Despite the loss, the AL East leaders still have the largest division edge in baseball at 7 1/2 games over Toronto, which fell to the Chicago White Sox.
Baltimore has gone 27-12 since last losing two straight June 28 and 29.
Friday’s victory was the fourth in five games for the Indians (61-60), who trail Kansas City by six games in the Central and Seattle by five for the second wild-card spot.
Rookie Zach Walters homered in the fifth before Mike Aviles’ 11th-inning blast gave Cleveland its MLB-leading seventh walkoff homer.
"We got a big win and hopefully we can carry that momentum into the rest of the series," Aviles said.
Indians’ starters have a 0.84 ERA during their five-game hot stretch, which includes Carlos Carrasco giving up two hits in five scoreless innings of Sunday’s 4-1 win over the New York Yankees.
It marked the first start since April 25 for Carrasco (4-4, 3.60), who made 26 straight appearances out of the bullpen after beginning the season in the rotation and going 0-3 with a 6.95 ERA in four starts.
He rejoined the rotation when Danny Salazar was sent to the minors, and manager Terry Francona said he plans to continue using Carrasco as a starter.
"When I was starting in April, I was thinking too much about everything," Carrasco said. "For this game, I didn’t think about any of that. I was thinking, ‘I’m going to face the Yankees,’ and that’s it."
The right-hander lost his only start against the Orioles in 2011 and didn’t face them again until tossing one scoreless inning of relief in Cleveland’s 8-4 loss May 23.