ST. LOUIS, MO - JUNE 10: Ubaldo Jimenez #30 of the Cleveland Indians throws to a St. Louis Cardinals batter at Busch Stadium on June 10, 2012 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Jeff Curry/Getty Images)
In the span of fifteen minutes, the Indians went from potentially losing the series to winning it.
Although the Kipnis bomb in the ninth will be mentioned most prominently, full due has to be given to Ubaldo Jimenez's outing. Aside from a Carlos Beltran home run in the first inning, Jimenez was almost flawless, allowing one run on five hits in seven innings. He didn't walk a batter, which is a happening in itself. Jimenez bounced his share of breaking pitches, but those bounces generally happened when ahead in the count, something that has been a rarity for Ubaldo thus far this season. And this wasn't a case where this was an Interleague gem, as Ubaldo had up until last August pitched his entire career in the National League.
The Indians faced Joe Kelly, who was taking the place of Jaime Garcia in the rotation. Kelly was making his major-league debut and was on a pitch count, so although he had limited the Indians to one run, he was lifted after facing one batter in the sixth. That meant the Cardinal bullpen would need to cover four innings, and that matchup favored the Indians. And it worked out, but not in the way you'd think. Victor Marte and Marc Rzepczynski, both of whom has had their share of struggles, each pitched a scoreless inning, so that meant the Cardinals were now able to use Mitchell Boggs and Jason Motte to cover the last two innings of regulation.
Meanwhile Vinnie Pestano went out to pitch the bottom of the eighth. Perhaps the best setup man in the AL, Pestano has nevertheless had games where he couldn't find the strike, and this was one of those games. He walked light-hitting Tyler Greene with one out, then Rafael Furcal, and then Carlos Beltran to load the bases with just one out. But whatever was troubling Pestano was fixed for the next two batters, for he got ahead of both Yadier Molina and Allen Craig before striking them out to get out of the self-induced jam.
Boggs threw a perfect eighth, but Johnny Damon (who was pinch-hitting for the pitcher's spot) led off the ninth with a single. Motte struck out Choo, but walked Asdrubal Cabrera, bringing up Jason Kipnis. The count was 2-2 when Motte tried to go inside with fastball, and Kipnis was definitely not in protect mode. He turned on the fastball, hitting a no-doubt three-run homer, and just like that the Indians had taken control of the game just minutes after it looked like the game and the series would slip through their fingers.
Michael Brantley extended his hitting streak to 18 with a single in the sixth after lining out in his first two at-bats. He's hitting .357/.413/.500 over the last 14 days.