Jimenez’s strong six stifle Blue Jays

CLEVELAND — Clean, fast, efficient.

That was the Cleveland Indians on Tuesday night. And it was much needed. One night after a tough loss to the Tigers, the Indians shut out Toronto 3-0 as Ubaldo Jimenez and the reconfigured “bullpen mafia” gave the Indians their 11th shutout of the season.

“This was a nice bounce-back win for us,” Manager Terry Francona said.

Especially since Justin Verlander and the Tigers lost to the lowly White Sox, putting the Indians again 2 1/2 back of Detroit.

Call it odd.

One night after leaving a small village on the bases, the Indians won despite being outhit 8-4. 

They won by scoring twice on three hits in the fourth, and by scoring once on a double-bunt-sacrifice fly trio in the eighth. And they won with shutout innings from Cody Allen, Joe Smith and Chris Perez, whose morning started with an appearance at Rocky River court where his marijuana-in-the-mail case was delayed until Sept. 3. 

Through it all, Jimenez improved to 7-4 by not letting the potent Blue Jays score.

His line was typical of the way he’s pitched all season. He lasted six innings, gave up five hits, walked two and threw a bunch of pitches — 105 in six innings. But when he needed a pitch or an out he got it, holding the Blue Jays to 1 for 10 with runners in scoring position in his six innings.

He stranded a runner at second in the first, two more at first and second in the second. In the fourth, he gave up a double and single to the first two hitters and then got a ground ball back to the mound, a strikeout and a fly ball out.

In the fifth he left a runner at third, but in the sixth had his most effective inning, getting the Blue Jays one-two-three.

It was Jimenez’s longest outing since June 1, when he pitched eight innings against the Rays. In his six starts since, he’s lasted three, five, five and two-thirds, five and one-third, five and six innings.

But in those starts he’s gone 3-1 to improve to 7-4.

“I’m not as consistent, but I’m able to go out and compete with whatever I have every five days,” Jimenez said. “I wish I could go more innings, but that hasn’t been the case.

Francona looks on his starts as positives, though in a perfect world he knows Jimenez would throw more strikes, which would let him get into the seventh more often. In his 18 starts, Jimenez has gone more than six innings just three times.

But after leading the league in losses a year ago and after starting poorly this season, Jimenez has found a certain kind of rhythm. Since giving up six runs in seven innings to Detroit on May 22, Jimenez has gone 4-1 with a 2.88 ERA in his last nine starts.

“He’s done a pretty damn good job,” Francona said. “I think he should be proud of himself. It’s not easy. What happened last year was difficult for him.”

The Indians again showed that they have the wherewithal to bounce back from disappointment. 

They played poorly in two games against Detroit, rebounded to win and came close to splitting the series. A tough loss could have leaked into the next day.

Jimenez didn’t let it happen.

Nor did the team.

It’s that attitude and approach that keeps them within striking distance of the Tigers.