CLEVELAND — After starting a benches-clearing incident, being suspended and filing an appeal, Ubaldo Jimenez ended his drama-filled week by erasing any doubts.
He was ready to open the season.
It’s his teammates who don’t look prepared.
In his first start since being suspended for throwing at Colorado’s Troy Tulowitzki, Jimenez flirted with perfection for six innings, held Toronto to one hit in seven and gave Cleveland a second strong start before the Indians lost to the Toronto Blue Jays 7-4 in 12 innings, the team’s second extra-inning defeat.
Jimenez, who was suspended five games for intentionally throwing at his former teammate, allowed one hit and two runs in seven innings. The right-hander walked three, struck out three and pitched like the ace the Indians thought they were getting when they traded several top prospects for him last July.
After a shaky spring that ended with Jimenez touching off the incident with the Rockies, the Indians didn’t know what to expect in the right-hander’s first outing.
With a nasty array of pitches, he made them feel much better.
“No one is saying every five days he’s going to pitch like that,” Indians manager Manny Acta said. “But he gave us some peace of mind today.”
The Indians have 12 hits in 28 innings and are batting a collective .135 through two games. Newly acquired first baseman Casey Kotchman is 0 for 12 and has yet to hit the ball out of the infield.
“It’s the second game in a row our starting pitching has done a great job,” second baseman Jason Kipnis said. “We need to score more runs than that.”
Afterward, Jimenez said he will drop the appeal of his suspension, which came one day after the incident, which Rockies manager Jim Tracy called “the most gutless act I’ve seen in 35 years.”
With the Indians off next Thursday, Jimenez will not miss a start and is scheduled to take his turn in the rotation Saturday in Kansas City.
“I just want to focus and get ready for my next game,” Jimenez said. “I just want to get it out of the way so we don’t have to think about it.”
Edwin Encarnacion opened the 12th with a double off Sipp and went to third on Lawrie’s soft single to right. Davis, who entered the game as a pinch-hitter in the ninth, then lined his double to center, scoring Encarnacion and Lawrie, giving the Blue Jays a 5-3 lead. Davis stole third and scored on Colby Rasmus’ single and Johnson added an RBI single.
The Indians were two outs away from losing in nine innings when Cabrera, rewarded earlier in the week with a new three-year contract, connected off closer Sergio Santos.
It was only Cleveland’s second hit, and it came at the perfect time for the Indians, whose bats have been cold even since they arrived from spring training in Arizona, where they also struggled to score. Cleveland is batting just .135 (12 of 89) in two games.
“The offense is going to come along someday,” Jimenez said. “One of these days the guys will start hitting again. It’s just the beginning of the season.”
Kipnis’ homer in the fifth ended Morrow’s no-hit bid and a scoreless drought of 18 2-3 innings for Cleveland.
Jimenez was nearly perfect for six innings and unhittable for almost seven.
He retired the first 17 Blue Jays in order before walking No. 9 hitter Rasmus with two outs in the sixth. However, Jimenez got out of the inning by getting Yunel Escobar on an easy fly to right. But in the seventh, a pair of walks and a wild pitch came back to haunt Jimenez, who gave up Lawrie’s tying single.
“I got myself in trouble,” Jimenez said.
Jimenez’s outing came after Masterson dominated the Blue Jays for eight innings in the opener. Cleveland’s starters have given up three hits in 15 innings, posted a 1.80 ERA and held the Blue Jays to a .063 average with 13 strikeouts.
Still, the club’s first win remains elusive.
“I didn’t worry about what people said,” Jimenez said of the criticism he got this spring. “I said I would be ready for the season.”