BOSTON -- Starter Ubaldo Jimenez has spent the past two seasons searching for a way to rediscover the dominance he once displayed. There were no answers to be found at Fenway Park on Friday night.
Jimenez's enigmatic season reached a new low in his latest effort, sending the Indians to a 7-5 loss to the Red Sox in the second tilt of this four-game set. Coming off his best outing of the year, Jimenez suffered his worst by surrendering seven runs and walking off the hill before he could escape the fifth inning.
The wait continues for the front-line starter the Indians felt they acquired last summer.
"I don't know which guy is the one that you guys are waiting for," manager Manny Acta said. "We just want him to be more consistent in the strike zone. I don't think any of us is sitting here expecting 97-100 mph.
"We're just working on his mechanics so he can repeat his delivery and be more consistent in the strike zone. He still has pretty good stuff and he can get people out."
Complicating matters on Friday was the fact that the American League Central-leading Indians (18-14) struggled to solve Red Sox right-hander Clay Buchholz early on. The Tribe's lineup had its share of chances throughout the evening, but could not deliver enough clutch hits to overcome the shaky showing turned in by Jimenez.
"I should be really disappointed," Jimenez said. "I didn't give the team a chance to stay close in the game. We scored five runs at the end. If I would've done a better job, we probably would've won the game."
Cleveland scored once in the first inning on a two-out RBI single from Carlos Santana and later added three runs off Buchholz and the Boston bullpen in the seventh. Buchholz -- sporting a 9.09 ERA on the year at the evening's onset -- was charged with four runs (three earned) in his 6 1/3 innings of work for the Red Sox (13-19), improving to 4-1 on the season with the win.
In the ninth inning, the Tribe plated one run on an RBI single from Michael Brantley, but that was where the comeback ended.
"Our opportunities were early in the game," Acta said. "[Buchholz] is as tough as it gets when he's going well. That's the first time we've seen him this year. I don't know what has happened in his outings before this one. I know we had our chances earlier, and after that, we let him off the hook."
Jimenez's troubles began with a 30-pitch first inning, which included two runs allowed on two hits with a pair of walks, a wild pitch and one hit-by-pitch. It was an early sign of the ugly outing to come. Dustin Pedroia contributed a two-run double off Jimenez in the second inning, and Boston tacked three more runs on the pitcher's line in the fifth.
That outburst in the fifth inning began with a leadoff walk -- one of five free passes handed out by Jimenez on the night -- to Daniel Nava. Cody Ross followed with an RBI double that rolled into foul ground and rattled around in a doorway along the left-field wall. Ryan Sweeney later added a run-scoring single off Jimenez, and Pedroia chipped in a sacrifice fly off Tribe reliever Dan Wheeler.
"I felt like I threw a couple good pitches," Jimenez said, "but they were able to hit it and they were able to find holes. They did a really good job."
It was the second start in a row that Jimenez walked five, but that was the only similarity between his latest outing and the previous performance. On Sunday, the right-hander held Texas' powerful lineup to no runs on two hits over seven innings. What first seemed a sign of progress now looks more like a mirage for a pitcher who has been working on tweaking his mechanics.
That is not how Acta views the situation.
"We're not going to give up on him," Acta said. "We're not going to just throw our arms up and go, 'This is him.' That's not him. He showed that five days ago against the best lineup in the American League."
Friday marked Jimenez's first trip to Fenway Park since last August, when he first joined the Indians after being acquired from the Rockies in a blockbuster deal at the July 31 Trade Deadline. Cleveland pulled the trigger on the high-profile deal -- one that sent prized prospects Drew Pomeranz and Alex White to Colorado as part of a four-player package -- with the thought that Jimenez had ace potential.
Since moving into the Indians' rotation, Jimenez is 7-7 with a 5.13 ERA in 18 starts. In light of his start against the Red Sox, the right-hander's ERA spiked to 5.17 on the season and he has issued more walks (30) than strikeouts (24). The command, velocity and consistency he had a few seasons ago has remained missing in action.
"He's human -- just like you and I," Acta said. "I wish every single one of them could go seven innings, two hits, no runs. That's not reality. We just want to see more consistency. He's going through some mechanical adjustments. How long is it going to take? I don't know.
"He's going to have some good ones and some bad ones."
Asked if he feels like he has been searching since the day he joined the Indians, Jimenez nodded.
"Yeah, for sure," he replied. "There's no doubt about it."