Jimenez finds control, returns to success

The Indians got another encouraging start from one of their most important pitchers Sunday. Ubaldo Jimenez pitched his second consecutive outstanding game, although he didn’t get the win in the Indians’ 4-1 victory over St. Louis.

Jimenez in seven innings allowed one run on five hits, with seven strikeouts. Most important of all: Jimenez did not walk a batter. In his last two starts, Jimenez is 1-0 with a 1.32 ERA, and just one walk in 13 2/3 innings.

The one walk is particularly noteworthy because Jimenez’s biggest problem this season has been his control. Or lack of it. Prior to his last two starts, Jimenez was averaging almost seven walks per nine innings.

He was leading the major leagues in walks, and his lack of command drove up his pitch count and prevented him from pitching deep into games. Jimenez threw 102 pitches Sunday in St. Louis, and that got him through seven innings.

Prior to Jimenez’s last two starts, 102 pitches were about what he would throw for five innings. However, in his last two starts he has been much more economical with his pitches, and it has allowed him to pitch deeper into games.

The importance of getting Jimenez back on track can’t be overestimated for the Indians. For most of the first two months of the season, No. 1 starter Justin Masterson and Jimenez, the No. 2 starter, both had ERAs over 5.00.

It’s difficult to imagine the Indians staying in contention all year with their top two starters both struggling like that. However, in the last two turns through the rotation, both Masterson and Jimenez have pitched well, which bodes well for the Indians.

NOTES, QUOTES

Jimenez pitches well again

–RHP Ubaldo Jimenez didn’t get the win, but he had his second consecutive outstanding start in the Indians’ 4-1 win over St. Louis Sunday. Jimenez pitched seven innings, allowing one run on five hits with seven strikeouts and no walks. “Everything was working for him. I’m happy to see him have back-to-back solid outings,” said manager Manny Acta. Over his last two starts, Jimenez is 1-0 with a 1.32 ERA. In 13 2/3 innings he has allowed two earned runs on 10 hits, with 11 strikeouts and one walk.

–2B Jason Kipnis added to his team-leading totals in home runs and RBI Sunday in leading the Indians to a 4-1 win over St. Louis. Kipnis was 3-for-4 with a double, a home run, three RBI and a stolen base. Kipnis leads the Indians with 10 home runs and leads the American League with 15 stolen bases. “He continues to be a spark for us, doing everything from base running, catching the ball, and driving in runs,” manager Manny Acta said.

–OF Michael Brantley’s sixth-inning single Sunday extended his hitting streak to 18 games, the longest by an Indians player since Brantley had a 19-game streak in 2010. During his current streak Brantley is hitting .369 (24-for-65), with one home run and 15 RBI.

–C Carlos Santana missed just over a week while on the seven-day disabled list with a mild concussion, and he has struggled at the plate since his return. In six games since coming off the DL, Santana is hitting .083 (2-for-23). Since May 1, he is hitting .204 (23-for-113).

–OF Johnny Damon scored a run Sunday, the 1,655th run of his career. He needs nine more to pass Ken Griffey Jr. (1,662) and Rafael Palmeiro (1,663) and move into 31st place on the all-time list. Damon is still struggling at the plate, hitting .190, although he does have more walks (13) than strikeouts (12).

BY THE NUMBERS: 16 — Number of years since an Indians player led the league in stolen bases (Kenny Lofton in 1996). 2B Jason Kipnis has been leading the American League or tied for the lead for most of the last few weeks.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “No walks makes a huge difference. We all know that.” — manager Manny Acta, on RHP Ubaldo Jimenez, who had been leading the majors in walks but had no walks in seven innings Sunday in the Indians’ 4-1 victory.

ROSTER REPORT

MEDICAL WATCH:

–DH Travis Hafner (sore right knee) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to May 24. He had surgery May 31 to repair a frayed meniscus, and he will be out until late June or early July.

–3B Jack Hannahan (left calf strain) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to May 27. He had been out May 14-23 due to lower back stiffness.

–LHP Rafael Perez (strained left lat muscle) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to April 26, and he was transferred to the 60-day DL on May 26.

–OF Grady Sizemore (back surgery in March 2012) went on the 60-day disabled list April 4. He was cleared to begin baseball activities in late April and took live batting practice May 16. His rehab was slowed again in early June, and there was no timetable for his return.

–RHP Carlos Carrasco (Tommy John surgery in September 2011) went on the 60-day disabled list March 26. He might miss the entire season.