Ubaldo Jimenez pitched seven superb innings, Jack Hannahan tied the game in the seventh with a huge two-out hit, and Ezequiel Carrera drew a bases-loaded walk to push across what proved to be the winning run, as the Indians defeated the Kansas City Royals in front of a charged-up crowd of 41,337 on the night Jim Thome came home.
Yes, Thome went 0-for-4 with two Ks, but truly, the energy his return brought seemed to will the Tribe to victory.
Or maybe it just seemed that way. Hey, whatever works, yes?
Jimenez was the star of this game, and improved to 2-0 at Progressive Field. In 15 innings at home, Jimenez has allowed just one earned run. Now, to get him straightened out on the road…
After Eric Hosmer gave the Royals a 1-0 lead in the fourth inning with his 12th homer, Kansas City loaded the bases with one out, but Jimenez worked his way out of the jam, avoiding the meltdown that he experienced last weekend in Detroit.
Ubaldo fanned 10 and allowed seven hits in improving to 2-1 in the American League, and the Indians rode that performance to return to .500 at 64-64, The Tigers led the Minnesota Twins 2-1 at the time of this writing, and should Detroit hang on, they will retain their 6.5 game lead over the Tribe.
But remember, Cleveland trails by only five in the loss column, and still has six more meetings with the Tigers in 2011.
The Indians wasted a couple of chances in the early innings tonight, but finally broke through in the seventh when Carlos Santana drew a one-out walk and moved to second on a Kosuke Fukudome single. After Shelley Duncan struck out for the second out, Hannahan delivered a single to center, on which Santana reached for the plate with his hand as he slid and beat the throw from center-fielder Melky Cabrera.
Oddly enough, in his previous at-bat, Hannahan had also singled with a man at second, but that time Fukudome was thrown out at the plate by left-fielder Alex Gordon to end the fifth inning.
Back to the seventh. With two outs, a tie game at 1-1 and men at second and third, Lou Marson drew a walk off of Royals’ starter Felipe Paulino which ended Paulino’s night.
Paulino was frankly fantastic tonight, and just tired as his pitch count neared 120. Be that as it may, Paulino took the loss when Tim Collins came on and walked Carrera to give the Indians a 2-1 lead. Collins then struck out Cord Phelps on a 3-2 pitch to end the threat, but the Tribe bullpen sealed the deal.
First Vinnie Pestano worked around a leadoff hit-batsman to open the eighth and set the next three Royals down.
Then Chris Perez came on for the ninth and allowed a leadoff single to Mike Moustakas. Alcides Escobar laid down a sacrifice bunt to move Moustakas to second — odd strategy in seeming to play for a tie, and it turned out in Cleveland’s favor as Perez got Salvador Perez to fly deep to Shin-Soo Choo (who returned to action from his “trunk” problem) in right, with Moustakas moving to third.
Perez then secured his 28th save by getting Chris Getz to line to Choo for the final out, and the Indians were 1-0 with Thome in 2011.
The Indians will send Fausto Carmona on Saturday evening at 7:05 as they try to climb above .500 again.
Let’s hope that the energy — and the size of the crowd from tonight — will be repeated tomorrow and the Tribe can have (dare we say it?) a winning streak when they take the field on Sunday.