Jimenez makes Cleveland debut

Ubaldo Jimenez makes his Cleveland debut opposite the Texas Rangers’ Derek Holland, who tries for a fifth consecutive winning decision when the teams open a three-game set Friday night in Arlington. Most offshore sports books monitored by the SportsOptions odds product opened Texas as a $1.25 home favorite, with a nine-run total.

The Cleveland Indians made arguably the biggest pre-deadline splash when they traded for Ubaldo Jimenez last weekend.

The right-hander now looks to keep Cleveland afloat as it continues its push for the AL Central crown.

With the playoffs looking like a realistic possibility, the Indians (55-54) hope they significantly increased their chances of making their first postseason appearance in four years by acquiring Jimenez from Colorado in exchange for four minor leaguers on Saturday.

“When I heard, I got really excited, especially the way they’ve been playing,” he told the Indians’ website. “They’re only three games behind (Detroit in the division). They already know how to win, it’s not a secret. They know … they’re not where they are because of a fluke.”

While Jimenez is excited about joining his new team, he likely wasn’t too pleased with the statistics he posted this year with the Rockies. The Dominican Republic native went 6-9 with a 4.46 ERA in 21 starts, lackluster numbers that could be partly attributed to a drop in velocity.

Jimenez’s fastball has been clocked at around 94 mph this season after he averaged 96 mph over the last four years. He went 19-8 with a 2.88 ERA last season.

“The Indians got me because they think good about me,” Jimenez said. “That’s going to make me work harder every single day, because I know they’re expecting good things from me, and I’m going to do everything possible to help them win.”

After losing two of the first three at Boston, Cleveland prevailed 7-3 on Thursday behind a strong effort from Justin Masterson along with three hits apiece from Travis Hafner, Kosuke Fukudome and Carlos Santana, who had a two-run homer.

The win kept the Indians from dropping below .500 for the first time since they were 1-2.

“I’m sure (Jimenez) has a lot of other things on his mind as he’s going to go out there, being a part of a new team, but hopefully that may ease a little bit for him,” Masterson said. “I know he’s going to go out and pitch his game and I think we’ll like what we’re going to see.”

Jimenez will try to outduel Holland (10-4, 4.14 ERA), who’s thrown three shutouts in his last five starts, going 4-0 with a 1.64 ERA over that span. Most recently, Holland recorded a four-hitter in a 3-0 win at Toronto on Saturday.

“I just have to continue to take it one pitch at a time, show no fear and go after hitters,” Holland told the Rangers’ official website. “My defense will make the plays. I give them all the credit for the success I’ve had.”

The left-hander posted similar results in his only career appearance against the Indians on June 4, surrendering five hits and a walk in what was the first of his AL-high four shutouts during a 4-0 win at Cleveland.

C.J. Wilson and two relievers blanked the Indians the next day, extending Cleveland’s scoreless streak in the series to 18 innings. Texas has taken six straight and 13 of 15 from the Indians.

Holland had compiled a 6.80 ERA over his first nine home starts before throwing a combined 15 innings without allowing an earned run during his two most recent outings there.

He’ll look to continue his recent dominance as Texas (62-50) returns from a 2-4 road trip – capped by Thursday’s 5-2 win at Detroit, which preserved the Rangers’ one-game lead over the Los Angeles Angels in the AL West.

Josh Hamilton, who went 2 for 5 on Thursday, has gone 11 for 26 with three homers and eight RBIs during a six-game hitting streak against Cleveland.

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