The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Sports

May 6, 2012

Tribe’s U tops Rangers’ Yu to win series

Kipnis goes yard in win for first-place Wahoos

CLEVELAND — Much of the talk entering Sunday afternoon’s contest surrounded the Texas Rangers’ 25-year-old pitching sensation, Yu Darvish. But the day belonged to the Indians and Ubaldo Jimenez.

Jimenez outdueled the rookie from Japan, as he shut the Rangers out on two hits over seven innings to lead Cleveland to a 4-2 victory in the rubber match of the three-game weekend series.

The Tribe (15-11) remains in first place in the AL Central Division by 11⁄2 games over Detroit. Texas, the two-time defending league champions, is 18-10, and still sits atop the AL West.

Jimenez did walk five batters while striking out six. He raised his record to 3-2 while dropping his ERA to 4.04.

“Ubaldo was terrific today,” manager Manny Acta said. “He threw strikes today. Very good offspeed stuff. His curveball was the best I’ve seen so far, and he had a good slider. And he pitched with some confidence and some flair there after the first three innings, changing arm angles and stuff like that.

“He just dominated the right-handed hitters; they were 0-for-15 against him. And he went deep into the game, which is something that we needed.”

Three of the walks came with two outs in the third frame. Acta went out to talk to he and catcher Carlos Santana during the third one, to 2010 AL MVP Josh Hamilton.

“Both guys speak Spanish, but I wanted to make sure that we were getting the right message acrioss,” Acta said. “Basically, it was about pitch selection. The breaking ball — I thought he had better command of it today than his fastball, and that’s what he wanted to throw in that (2-1) count. And (I) went out there and said. ‘Hey, whatever you can throw for strikes, go for it.’

“Also, it was about strategy. You’ve got Hamilton there; don’t give in to him, and you’ve got a right-handed hitter (Michael Young) on deck.”

“I was able to command my fastball and throw my breaking ball for a strike,” Jimenez said. “In the third inning, I just lost (my mechanics). But then when I got past the third, I was able to get it back.”

“He was effectively wild,” Rangers manager Ron Washington, a former infielder for the Indians during his playing days, said, adding that he’s seen Jimenez shut down other good hitting lineups.

“That was no fluke. He’s done it before.”

The Rangers reached Tony Sipp for two runs in the eighth, but Vinnie Pestano came on to get the final out of that frame, and then Chris Perez worked the ninth for his leage-leading 11th save.

Perez was helped by Shin-Soo Choo, who made a diving catch of pinch-hitter Adrian Beltre’s line drive to right with a man on first and one out, although Choo appeared to initially break the wrong way on the ball.

Darvish, for whom the Rangers agreed to pay approximately $110 million between his contract and to his former team in Japan for the rights to negotate with him, suffered his first loss in the majors, and still sports an impressive 4-1 (2.54 ERA) record. The Indians didn’t exactly beat up on him. In fact, he often showed some of the reasons why he is so highly regarded. For example, his 11 strikeouts are his highest total here so far. But the damage done by the Cleveland hitters amounted to much more than what Texas could do against Jimenez, and for the second straight week, they received an assist from a sunny Sunday.

Johnny Damon led off the third inning by popping Darvish’s first pitch in the air and toward second baseman Ian Kinsler. But Kinsler never saw the ball in the bright sky, and the ball landed in front of him for a single.

“If the ball goes into the sun, what can you do?” Darvish said through an interpreter.

“If this was the first loss ever in my life I would feel different,” he said. “But I have experienced many losses. So now, I just prepare for my next game.”

It was the second time in consecutive home Sunday games that the Indians were awarded a hit on a ball lost by a fielder in the sunlight. Both were important. The first one, a double by Asdrubal Cabrera, was originally scored as an error on Angels right fielder Torii Hunter, but was overturned by Major League Baseball later in the week. It produced the initial two runs in a 4-0 win.

This one also helped to open the door in a scoreless bout. Jason Kipnis followed with a walk, putting he and Damon on first and second base with no outs for the second time.

When that had happened in the first inning, Cleveland failed to capitalize. But not on this occasion, as Cabrera smashed a grounder past diving first baseman Young and down the right-field line for a two-run double.

Darvish set down the next two batters as Cabrera held second, but Choo followed with a grounder that shortstop Elvis Andrus had to backhand. His off-balance throw was far over the head of Young, and bounced out of play. Choo had an infield hit, with Cabrera scoring on the error to make it 3-0.

“We got another Sunday sunball,” Acta said. “And we took advantage of it.”

Kipnis made it 4-0 when he unloaded his fifth homer into the right-field seats two innings later off a Darvish fastball. It gave him a 10-game hitting streak.

“(Darvish) is impresive,” Acta said. “He’s a big kid with a very good arm, and what impresses me the most is his secondary stuff.

“Boy, he can spin the ball. That slider and that curveball, he seems to have two with very tight spin. Guys just take some awful swings against him. We do have a lot of guys in the league that can throw in the mid-90s, but not too many guys can spin the ball like that.”

“I didn’t see his curveball at all today,” Kipnis, who walked the other two times he faced Darvish, said. “He was behind in the count, and had to come with his fastball or his splitter.”

Kinsler opened the eighth with a hit and went to third when Andrus blooped a double inside the right-field foul line. Hamilton brought Kinsler home with a groundout, and Young’s single scored Andrus.

“I thought we played a terrific series,” Acta said. “Any time you can take two of three ffrom a ballclub like that — back-to-back World Series-type of club — and the type of baseball that we played against them in the three days, it’s very encouraging. And our pitching desrves a lot of credit to keep their guys down for those three days pretty much.”

Mark Lowe and Koji Uehara also pitched for the Rangers.

Goldman is a freelance writer from South Euclid.

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