CLEVELAND -- The Indians are on a winning streak. It might only be two in a row, but Cleveland will gladly accept its small victories right now and plow ahead hoping more are coming around the corner.
Behind a solid outing from Ubaldo Jimenez, the Indians claimed a 5-3 win over the Red Sox on Thursday night at Progressive Field. It marked the third consecutive quality start from a Tribe starter, a welcome development for a team that has been searching for consistency from its rotation.
"The last two weeks have been really tough," Jimenez said. "Getting a couple wins in a row means a lot."
The rotation issues were a major factor behind Cleveland's decision earlier in the day to part ways with pitching coach Scott Radinsky. The Indians have promoted Ruben Niebla from Triple-A Columbus to take over the reins of a pitching staff that has been persistently problematic throughout this season.
Prior to Thursday's game, Cleveland had won two games in a row just once in a 30-game span. Within that stretch was the Tribe's recent 11-game losing streak, which fell one defeat shy of the club's 1931 record for prolonged futility. During this year's 11-game drought, the rotation was largely at fault, going 0-8 with a 10.44 ERA.
Jimenez, in particular, has been a work in progress all year.
The lanky right-hander has spent a significant amount of time this season with Radinsky, studying video and tweaking mechanics in order to right the wrongs that have plagued him over the past two tours.
"We spent a lot of hours, a lot of days, working every day," Jimenez said. "I am always going to be grateful for what he did for me. He was there for me every day. He came to the stadium always positive. He was never negative and he was never disappointed. He was always trying to get you up and make you better."
Against Boston, Jimenez found a rhythm and looked like the ace Cleveland has envisioned.
"Great job by Ubaldo," manager Manny Acta said. "That's the most aggressive I've seen him here with his fastball and probably the best command of his fastball that he has shown so far. He was just dotting it to both sides of the plate."
Jimenez threw 70 of his 106 pitches for strikes and registered first-pitch strikes to 18 of the 27 hitters he faced.
Jimenez lasted one hitter into the seventh inning, limiting the Red Sox to three runs on eight hits over six-plus frames. Along the way, the right-hander piled up a season-high 10 strikeouts and issued only one walk. It was not perfect, but it was effective, and the effort helped the Indians to their first two-game winning streak since July 23-24.
Things have been on the upswing over the past three games, though. Rookie Corey Kluber turned in a quality start in Tuesday's loss to the Twins and Justin Masterson followed suit in ending the losing streak on Wednesday. The well-liked Radinsky was let go, however, due to a season's worth of pitching woes.
Jimenez was among the pitchers who took Radinsky's firing hard.
"I think the clubhouse is really sad," Jimenez said. "He did everything possible. It's my fault. It's all the starting pitchers' fault. We haven't been consistent, but that's baseball, man."
As strong as Jimenez looked against Boston, his performance upped his record to just 9-11 and lowered his ERA to 5.25. On this night, however, Jimenez offered flash of his ability within a larger sample of inconsistency.
The Indians' offense offered support right out of the gates.
In the first inning, second baseman Jason Donald -- a last-minute replacement when Jason Kipnis was scratched with a stiff neck -- led off by slicing a pitch from Boston lefty Felix Doubront down the right-field line for a home run.
"Coming up here," said Donald, who was promoted from Triple-A before the game, "I just want to be as aggressive as I possibly can."
Doubront was eventually chased in the fifth during a three-run burst for the Tribe. Asdrubal Cabrera got things rolling with a run-scoring double off the Red Sox lefty, who later yielded an RBI single to Carlos Santana with the bases loaded. After Doubront hit the showers, Michael Brantley delivered a sacrifice fly to push the Indians out front, 4-3.
The Indians tacked on one run against Boston's bullpen in the eighth.
"We got some good at-bats throughout the game," Acta said.
That effectively erased the runs produced against Jimenez, whose win was only marred by a brief breakthrough by Boston. In the fourth inning, Dustin Pedroia singled and Adrian Gonzalez followed with a towering two-run home run to right. Pedroia added a run-scoring single in the fifth to help the Red Sox grab a short-lived 3-1 lead.
Cleveland's rally put the bullpen in position to seal the win -- something the late-inning cast has done so well this year. Tony Sipp handled the rest of the seventh, Vinnie Pestano locked down the eighth and closer Chris Perez picked up his 30th save with a clean ninth, improving the Indians' record to 42-5 this year when leading after six innings.
It was the kind of formula that worked so well for the Indians early on this season.
"A good pitched game, score a couple runs, score late like we did, and give it to our bullpen," Perez said.
That recipe went missing throughout the Tribe's losing streak.
"It was like a cancer," Perez said. "We looked like we forgot how to play ball, honestly. Uncharacteristic errors. Uncharacteristic pitching performances. Uncharacteristic hitters chasing pitches."
Cleveland is hoping those problems are firmly in the past.
"Let's keep it going," said the closer. "We've got two now."