CHICAGO -- Ubaldo Jimenez could not help but smile when asked if he ever peeks at the stadium radar gun readings for his pitches. The Indians starter could have denied ever doing so, but he probably knows he does not have much of a poker face.
"Sometimes," Jimenez said.
On Sunday afternoon, Jimenez may or may not have glanced back at the U.S. Cellular Field scoreboard a few times during his outing in Cleveland's 7-3 victory over the White Sox. The right-hander struggled some with his command, but there was no denying the presence of his overpowering heater.
Take Jimenez's 83rd pitch of the day, for example.
Working with a 3-2 lead in the fifth inning, Jimenez prepared to throw a 2-2 fastball to Chicago slugger Paul Konerko. The starter could have turned to his curveball, but the breaking pitch had been erratic all afternoon, and Jimenez felt he had used it far too often already. No, the heater was the way to go in this situation.
"He's one of the best hitters in the game," Jimenez said. "I just took a break, I took a deep breath and I said, "I have to throw everything that I have right here.'"
Jimenez unleashed his fastball. Konerko swung through it.
The crowd groaned and a 98-mph reading flashed on the scoreboard.
"Yeah, I saw that one," Jimenez said.
"That was pretty impressive," Indians manager Manny Acta said.
It was impressive, because one of the biggest mysteries this season has been the disappearance of Jimenez's high-velocity fastball. The righty still features one of the the top heaters in the game in terms of average pitch speed, but it has not had the same life it showed in each of the past two years.
In his six-inning showing for the Indians (72-72), who split the four-game set on the South Side, Jimenez averaged more than 94 mph with both his four-seam and two-seam fastballs. That is up from the 93.4 average he carried into the outing and was the first time since joining the Tribe that he was able to consistently reach back for added oomph.
"Jimenez was erratic with his command, but he had pretty good stuff," Acta said. "We saw the fastball whenever he had to go get it. We even saw 98 mph today, so that was encouraging to see. Today I think was the first time where he showed it with more consistency.
"I've seen a few games where he does it for a couple of innings, and then it disappears and he goes to his sinker and breaking balls and comes back maybe for a hitter or two. But today, he was pretty consistent with it."
As a result, the White Sox (73-72) were only able to manage two runs -- both coming via fielder's choice groundouts in the third inning -- during Jimenez's time on the hill. The righty issued five walks (the fourth time he has issued at least that many in a start this season), but he limited the damage with two strikeouts and 11 outs on ground balls.
"I felt good out there," Jimenez said. "I only had a couple innings where I couldn't find the strike zone. I was trying to throw too many breaking balls. I couldn't control it. I wasn't throwing the breaking ball for a strike. That was my mistake. That's why I walked so many guys."
It was not the prettiest performance for Jimenez, who was acquired in a blockbuster trade with the Rockies on July 31, but it was effective. Chicago loaded the bases with three walks in the fourth inning, but it came away empty handed. The White Sox also drove Jimenez's pitch count to 105, but the starter did not cave.
"Jimenez threw 100 pitches," White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said. "I never see a guy throw 100 pitches and only score two runs. The pitching coach went out there almost every other inning. But we didn't have the big hit. We had the people on base, and worked the count pretty well, but we came up short."
Jimenez (9-11 overall, 3-2 with the Indians) owed much to the lower third of Cleveland's lineup for his latest win.
Luis Valbuena, Trevor Crowe and Lou Marson -- Nos. 7-9 in the Tribe's order -- combined for seven hits and four RBIs for Cleveland. Crowe and Marson sparked a three-run push against White Sox starter Zach Stewart and Valbuena helped the Indians to a 4-2 lead with a solo homer off Will Ohman in the sixth.
An RBI single from Jason Donald, followed by a two-run double off the bat of Carlos Santana, helped the Indians tack on three insurance runs in the eighth.
"Any time the guy in front of you puts up a good at-bat," said Crowe, "you kind of feed off that a little bit."
Perhaps Jimenez can build off his latest effort, too.
"He kind of had more trust on his fastball," Acta said. "You could see why. I mean, it had some giddyup today. It's good. He's had more good [starts] than bad ones and that's all we can ask going forward until the end of this season."