Indians 7, Rays 3
While fans endured sweltering heat, Ubaldo Jimenez looked at the thermometer and just smiled.
Jimenez shook off the mid-90s heat and left his own mid-90s fastball on the shelf, using a variety of breaking balls to strike out eight over six innings and help the Cleveland Indians beat the Tampa Bay Rays 7-3 Saturday.
''I love this weather,'' said Jimenez, a native of the Dominican Republic. ''You get good and loose right away. I felt very comfortable.''
Jimenez (8-7) allowed a two-run homer to Luke Scott in the fourth inning, but otherwise was in command. The right-hander gave up five hits and walked only one, using a sharp slider and split-finger changeup instead of his usual big fastball.
''I probably used less than half fastballs,'' said Jimenez, explaining that catcher Lou Marson saw the slider working and just kept calling it.
The Indians bunched five runs into the second and third innings against Matt Moore (5-6) and Shelley Duncan hit a two-run homer as Cleveland won for the fourth time in five games.
Cleveland remained three games behind the AL Central-leading Chicago White Sox.
Everything seemed to go the Indians' way, even when they appeared to make an out. They got a reprieve in the seventh inning when plate umpire Scott Berry overruled his partner at first base Jerry Meals. With two outs and none on, Jose Lopez grounded to Tampa Bay shortstop Sean Rodriguez, whose low throw was scooped up by first baseman Carlos Pena and the Rays left the field.
Indians manager Manny Acta protested that Pena bobbled the ball. Berry agreed, allowing Lopez to remain at first and ordering the Rays to go back to the field. Carlos Santana then hit a fly ball to left field for the inning's final out.
''You could see it from the dugout and I just said he never had the ball,'' Acta said. ''The main thing is getting the play right.''
Jimenez won for the first time in three starts. He got out of a first-inning jam by firing a called third strike past Jeff Keppinger with two Rays on base. He then pitched efficiently except in the fourth, when Ben Zobrist hit a leadoff double and scored on Scott's two-out shot over the wall in center.
The right-hander lowered his ERA to 4.50 with his seventh straight start of six or more innings. Since giving up seven runs in a 12-6 loss to the White Sox on May 27 that ballooned his ERA to a season-high 5.79, Jimenez has a 2.93 ERA and 44 strikeouts in 46 innings.
''Ubaldo continues to give us good outings, that's seven in a row,'' Acta said.
Moore had won four straight, but tied a season high with five walks - in only 4 2-3 innings.
''I didn't do a very good job of helping myself out by walking guys and keeping them off base,'' said the 23-year-old lefty, who gave up five runs, five hits, and lost for the first time since May 28. ''It was a very poor effort.''
Michael Brantley doubled to open the second inning and after Duncan reached on a one-out walk, Lou Marson hit a bloop to left that fell in front of a diving Desmond Jennings for an RBI double. Duncan scored on a groundout and Aaron Cunningham lined a drive up the middle to score Marson - then stretched the hit into a double with some hustle on the basepaths.
Doubles by Lopez and Santana mixed with two more walks helped make it 5-0 in the third. Brantley had an RBI groundout and Santana a run-scoring double.
''Matty did not have one of his better days,'' Rays manager Joe Maddon said. ''It was a youthful thing. I still firmly believe in how good he's going to be, but it was a tough night for him.''
Duncan's fourth homer in his past five starts made it 7-2 in the eighth against reliever Wade Davis.
B.J. Upton hit his seventh homer in the ninth off Cleveland reliever Esmil Rogers.
NOTES: Brantley has reached base safely in 22 straight games at Progressive Field, the longest active streak by an AL player in home games. ... Cleveland optioned LHP Nick Hagadone to Triple-A Columbus and used a 24-man roster. The Indians will recall LHP Scott Barnes from Columbus on Sunday. ... Maddon said he has no idea when 3B Evan Longoria will return. The three-time All-Star has been out since May 1 with a partially torn left hamstring. Jeff Keppinger started at third. He had been out since Wednesday with a bruised left tricep after being hit by a pitch. ... Maddon said OF Hideki Matsui's tight left hamstring has improved, but he's still likely to be limited to being the DH.