CLEVELAND - The Cleveland Indians' offense continues to generate runs and wins at a high rate, but the most significant aspect of the Indians' 7-3 win over the Oakland A's Monday night was the work of embattled pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez.
After struggling for most of his time since being traded to Cleveland in the middle of the 2011 season, Jimenez is starting to show some consistency. The big right-hander pitched into the sixth inning Monday, striking out a season-high eight batters in his second consecutive effective start.
In his last start Jimenez pitched seven scoreless innings, yielding three hits, in a 9-0 win over Kansas City. In his last two starts he is 2-0 with a 1.42 ERA.
The Indians blasted four home runs in Monday's game, two by Asdrubal Cabrera, but it was the encouraging work by Jimenez that excited manager Terry Francona most.
"He pitched well the whole way. There was no point where he was out of synch," said Francona. "He worked ahead in the count. They are a very patient team, but he kept throwing strike one."
Jimenez retired 15 of the first 18 batters he faced. The only run he allowed in the first five innings was a solo home run by Yoenis Cespedes in the fourth inning.
"I was able to get ahead in the count and make them swing the bat," said Jimenez, who after his first three starts this year was 0-2 with an 11.25 ERA. "I'm more confident now, and when I'm confident, my mechanics are better."
Everything is working for the Indians on their current homestand. They have won five of those six home games, and that's part of a bigger surge in which they have won seven of their last eight games overall.
"They're playing well right now," said Oakland manager Bob Melvin. "We would have preferred to catch them a little earlier in the season. Their lineup looks much better than it did last year. Across the board, they look like a different team and certainly a good team."
Over those last eight games the Indians have averaged nearly eight runs per game, outscoring their opponents 63-21.
"We've got some guys with some pop," said Mark Reynolds, who belted one of Cleveland's four home runs.
The Indians took a 2-0 lead just three batters into the bottom of the first inning. Oakland starter Jarrod Parker (1-5) retired the first batter he faced, but No. 2 hitter Jason Kipnis belted an 0-1 pitch over the wall in left-center for his third home run.
Cabrera then ripped a 2-2 pitch into the seats in right field for his third home run.
Cleveland stretched its lead to 4-1 in the fifth inning on Cabrera's second home run of the game and a mammoth clout by Mark Reynolds, his league-leading 10th of the year, to the top of the bleachers over the left field wall. The homer traveled an estimated 460 feet.
"They all count, whether they land in the first row or the last row," said Reynolds.
"As long as it lands in the seats, we're happy," said Francona.
John Jaso led off the Oakland sixth with a walk, and he went to third on a single by Seth Smith. Cespedes drove in Jaso with a sacrifice fly to cut the lead to 4-2.
Jimenez was removed from the game later in the inning with the bases loaded and two outs. Left-handed reliever Nick Hagadone came in and struck out Josh Reddick to end the threat. Cleveland then blew it open with a three-run seventh inning, with two runs coming on a bases-loaded single on a 3-2 pitch by Jason Giambi, whose hit came after Oakland intentionally walked Carlos Santana.
"That's why he's here," said Francona of Giambi. "The game doesn't speed up on him. He knows what he wants to do."
Parker was removed from the game after the fifth inning due a neck strain.
"It's something that has been bothering me for a little bit," he said.
Parker said he isn't sure whether the neck strain will cause him to miss a start.
"We'll see how it feels and go from there," he said. "It's something we don't want to continue and snowball and build into something worse. It's not something I want to keep dealing with."
Giambi and Michael Brantley each had two hits for the Indians. Brandon Moss went 2-for-4 for Oakland.
NOTES: Prior to the game, the Indians placed right-handed pitcher Vinnie Pestano on the disabled list due to right elbow tendinitis. To take Pestano's place on the roster, Cleveland recalled Hagadone from Triple-A Columbus. ... Grant Balfour, who didn't pitch Monday, has a streak of 23 consecutive saves, the third longest streak in Oakland history. ... A's left-hander Tommy Milone will go into his start Tuesday night averaging 1.4 walks per nine innings, the fourth-best mark in the American League. Right-hander Zach McAllister will start for Cleveland.