KANSAS CITY -- Indians starter Ubaldo Jimenez came out of hiding on Monday night. Cleveland can only hope it can finally send the search party home for good.
Jimenez turned in his strongest outing of the season -- arguably one of his best efforts as a member of the Tribe -- to help the Indians cruise to an 9-0 victory over the Royals in the finale of a four-game series at Kauffman Stadium. The offense caught fire and Jimenez followed suit, bringing a satisfying end to a long road trip.
"You're always looking to be encouraged," manager Terry Francona said. "I think we flew past encouraged and got excited."
Over an 11-day trek through Houston, Chicago and Kansas City, the Indians (10-13) had two games washed away due to rain, played one doubleheader and compiled a 5-4 record. That includes a split of the four-game set against the Royals, who were knocked out of first place in the American League Central with Monday's loss.
That was courtesy of Jimenez.
The Indians' starter entered the evening with a bloated 10.06 ERA, but shook off his abysmal start to the season with a gem of an outing against Kansas City (13-10). Jimenez allowed just three hits across seven shutout innings, in which he created 12 outs via ground balls and mixed in four strikeouts.
"Ubaldo today -- wow. Incredible, man," said Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar, who went 0-for-3 against the Tribe's starter. "He was keeping the ball down and throwing a lot of first-pitch strikes. And he was using a curve, changeup and a fastball over 92 [mph]. Wow. Unbelievable."
On either side of an unlikely infield single from Billy Butler in the fourth inning were a pair of 11-batter streaks without a hit allowed for Jimenez. The right-hander did issue two walks, but neither came back to haunt him. It marked the first time since May 6 last season (against the Rangers) that Jimenez logged at least seven scoreless innings.
"He had life on his fastball. He had all of his offspeed pitches working," Francona said. "Hitters, they had to respect everything he threw. You saw some rollover ground balls to first, some awkward swings, late on the fastball. There was just so much to like tonight."
The win was Jimenez's first since Aug. 9 of last year.
Due to a pair of rainouts in the past week, Jimenez had his start pushed back and took the mound for the first time since April 21 in Houston. During the seven-day hiatus, the right-hander threw three bullpen sessions and continued to work on the mechanics of his drive leg and arm slot.
Jimenez said he tried to build off the success in his last outing, which included one stretch of 14 consecutive Astros batters without a hit.
"It helped. That gave me more confidence," Jimenez said. "As soon as I got to the mound today, I was like, 'I'm going to throw everything for the strike.' I felt really good."
The offense more than held up its end of the bargain.
Led by a two-homer showing by right fielder Ryan Raburn, Cleveland churned out nine runs on 14 hits and finished 6-for-9 with runners in scoring position. Jason Kipnis ended a drought of 150 plate appearances (dating to last season) without a home run by drilling a solo shot in the first inning for the Indians.
"It was a good night," said Raburn, who was 4-for-4 with four RBIs. "It was fun. We just try to do whatever we can to help the ballclub, whether it's one hit, a walk, getting a runner over, anything. Anything like this is always special."
Asdrubal Cabrera chipped in an RBI single off Royals starter Wade Davis (charged with eight runs in 4 2/3 innings) in the third inning and then helped ignite a six-run outburst in the fifth with a run-scoring double. In that flurry of offense, Mark Reynolds contributed an RBI single, Carlos Santana added an RBI double and Raburn brought them both in with a three-run home run.
Raburn's second long ball of the night, and of the season, was a leadoff blast to right field off Kansas City reliever Kelvin Herrera in the eighth inning.
"They hit some good pitches off of Wade, but they hit some mistakes, too," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "This is a club that hits the ball down pretty well."
In the eighth, Francona gave Jimenez a chance to log one more inning, but that prospect came to an end when Mike Moustakas and Jeff Francoeur opened the frame with a double and single, respectively. At that juncture, Francona handed the ball to lefty reliever Nick Hagadone.
Hagadone began his escape act by striking out pinch-hitter George Kottaras looking. The left-hander then induced a chopper back to the mound for a groundout from Elliot Johnson, forcing Moustakas to hold steady at third base. Hagadone finished off the Royals by striking out Alex Gordon, keeping Jimenez's line clean in the process.
"That was nice," Francona said. "We had spread the game out, but it was nice for Ubaldo to have some zeros after the way he had battled."