ARLINGTON, Texas -- They're not back where they were three weeks ago when they led the AL Central, but the Cleveland Indians are heading home on the right note.
The Indians rolled past a slumping Texas Rangers team to win their first series in Arlington since 2008 with another 5-2 win Wednesday night at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.
Jason Kipnis finished a triple shy of a cycle and Ubaldo Jimenez turned in an effective start to stymie a slumping Rangers team that has now dropped six of its past nine games. After having lost eight straight and 16 of their last 20, the Indians are now the winners of two in a row and find themselves one game below .500.
Indians manager Terry Francona said this doesn't mean his team is back on track. It's simply a step in the right direction.
"We won tonight. That's how we're looking at it," he said. "We can't win four games today, but we got our win and a much-needed day off."
The Indians had lost 12 straight games on the road coming into the series, but the two wins get them an easy travel day as they head home to Progressive Field on Friday to begin a 10-day homestand.
The Indians slapped Texas starter Nick Tepesch around by collecting eight hits and five runs in five innings against the Rangers rookie, punctuated by Carlos Santana's RBI double in the fifth inning that extended the lead to 5-1.
Cleveland starter Ubaldo Jimenez struck out four hitters in five innings, breaking the trend of needing to rack up strikeouts to be effective. In games where Jimenez strikes out at least five hitters this season, he's 3-0 with a 1.93 ERA. After Wednesday, he lowered his ERA when he doesn't get five strikeouts down from 9.72 to 8.40.
"He didn't have his best command, but he competed and worked ahead of them," Francona said. "Anytime you can hold that team to one or two runs, you're doing something good."
Despite his effectiveness, Jimenez was done in the sixth inning after throwing 101 pitches. The Indians bullpen held the Rangers in check until a two-out RBI double by Jurickson Profar made it 5-2 in the ninth inning. Rich Hill, Brian Shaw, Nick Hagadone and Joe Smith combined to throw three shutout innings.
After Mike Aviles put the Indians on the board with a two-run homer to left field in the second inning, the Indians didn't look back. They then scored runs in the second, third and fifth innings.
An RBI single by Michael Brantley in the third scored Michael Bourn, and Kipnis belted a solo homer in the fifth.
While Tepesch started the season as a formidable option as the Rangers No. 5 starter, he's now struggled in back-to-back starts. After allowing six runs in seven innings against Toronto on Friday, his ERA has jumped from 3.44 to 4.30 in his last two starts.
"When he got it out over the plate, they just didn't miss it," Rangers manager Ron Washington said.
Washington said that while Tepesch hasn't been sharp in either of his recent starts, he hasn't gotten any help from his struggling lineup either.
"We're trying to get them to relax and do what they're capable of doing with the baseball without worrying about what the result will be," he said.
Leonys Martin gave the Rangers an early spot of life by sending a hanging changeup into the Rangers bullpen that put Texas on the board in the third. The Rangers then followed that up with a pair of hits and a walk, but Jimenez got a double-play ball and a weak grounder to end the inning without any further damage.
Profar made his case to stay in Arlington when Ian Kinsler returns from the disabled list this weekend by delivering a three-hit night from the leadoff spot.
The Rangers actually saved a run in the first when David Murphy gunned Michael Bourn down at home trying to score from second. Murphy delivered a perfect throw from left field that beat the speedy outfielder by a few steps. He collided with A.J. Pierzynski, but both players were OK.
NOTES: The Rangers signed third-round pick David Ledbetter, a right-handed pitcher from Cedarville University. They've signed their first 10 picks and 12 of their first 13 players selected in this year's MLB draft. Only 10th-round selection Cole Wiper remains unsigned. ... The Indians signed four more players from their Draft, including eighth-round pick RHP Trevor Frank, a closer from UC Riverside. They're still working on signing first-round pick Clint Frazier. ... C Lou Marson's rehab stint was cut short when he experienced more soreness in his shoulder on Wednesday. The 26-year-old catcher has been on the disabled list since April 25 after reaggravating an existing shoulder injury that developed during spring training. There's no timetable for his return. ... 2B Ian Kinsler was cleared to begin a three-day rehab assignment in Double-A Frisco. He aims to return for Sunday's game against Toronto. ... Jason Giambi, who's hitting .188, was hit by a pitch in his first two at-bats. ... Rangers prospect Joey Gallo homered twice again Wednesday, making him the minor-league leader with 20 home runs this season.