- 142 wins
- 110 wins
ST. LOUIS -- There's not much you can do with a 97-mph fastball. As Jason Kipnis put it, you drop your hands, react and hope you make contact.
Kipnis did just that Sunday afternoon at a time his club needed it most, delivering a three-run homer off Cardinals closer Jason Motte in the ninth to break open a tie ballgame.
"With a pitcher like that, it's pretty much, here comes the fastball. Let's see if you can hit," Kipnis said. "He's a big power pitcher, and the best thing you can do is kind of shorten your swing and let him supply the power."
After a rocky eighth inning in which Vinnie Pestano worked his way out of a bases-loaded jam, Kipnis' 10th homer of the year lifted the Indians to a 4-1 victory before 43,400 fans at Busch Stadium. The homer also provided Cleveland with the run support it was searching for all day while starter Ubaldo Jiménez mowed down the Cardinals' hitters.
Jiménez turned in his best outing of the season before handing it over to the bullpen. Jiménez threw seven innings -- matching his longest outing of the year -- allowing one run on five hits. He's now allowed one run in back-to-back starts in June after posting an ERA of 6.75 over six starts in May.
"He was dominant," Indians manager Manny Acta said of Jiménez. "He had the good fastball with life and a little tail to it at the end, and had a good slider. Everything was working for him."
From inside the box, Cardinals left fielder Allen Craig saw similar movement on Jiménez's pitches.
"I think he had his fastball running a little bit more than the last few times we've faced him," Craig said. "That made it a little bit tougher. He pitched a good game. He's got really good stuff. It's not an easy task."
Jiménez struck out a season-high seven and didn't walk a batter for the first time this year. As Carlos Beltran had done to starter Justin Masterson on Saturday, the Cardinals' outfielder provided the only hiccup in Jiménez's day by drilling a 428-foot homer in the first. After that, Jiménez didn't allow another hit until the fifth inning.
"It probably helped me a bit that I've pitched against these guys before," said Jiménez, who spent six years in Colorado before joining the Indians mid-season last year. "I know what their weaknesses are and what their strengths are. I was able to get ahead."
Aside from the Beltran homer -- which Jiménez said was meant to be on the inside half, but instead hung over the middle of the plate -- the right-hander said he felt good all day. He enjoyed the warm, humid weather and each pitch felt good coming off his hand.
The same could not be said for Pestano, who walked the bases loaded with one out in the eighth. Pestano said his hands were sweaty, and he couldn't get a firm grip on the ball. Despite getting himself into trouble with a couple of formidable hitters in Yadier Molina and Craig coming to the plate, Pestano's confidence was unshakable.
"I'm not afraid to pitch with the bases loaded," Pestano said. "I don't get worried or scared or anything like that. Having the bases loaded or nobody on base ... doesn't make a difference to me."
Pestano struck out Molina and Craig to end the threat. Catcher Carlos Santana scooped up the third strike in the dirt and slammed his foot on home plate, setting the tone for the ninth.
"[Pestano]'s a guy that we let work out of it because he's got the stuff to do it," Acta said. "That right away fueled the whole team. You escape that jam and then the next thing, we've got to win this game. We've got a good chance."
Acta called on former Cardinal Chris Perez to close out the game. Perez recorded his American League leading 20th save. Immediately after getting a pat on the back from Santana following the last out, Perez turned toward the outfield and threw up on the field. He didn't make it much further before going down to one knee and vomiting again.
"It's a hot day and when I came out to throw, I took a couple drinks of warm water and it didn't really sit well with my stomach," Perez said. "After I struck out [Daniel] Descalso it almost came up and when the game was over I just let it out. Nothing serious, I'm fine."
"As long as [he] gets the save, we're okay with it," Acta joked afterward.
Mike Still is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.