06/23/12 3:45 PM ET
Acta shows confidence in back end of bullpen
By Glenn Sattell / MLB.com
Cleveland manager Manny Acta attributes much of that success to his bullpen. He had no reservations about pulling Friday's starter Ubaldo Jimenez in the seventh inning even though the righty was in command and held Houston scoreless.
"He had 100-plus pitches and he had seen [Jose] Altuve already three times," Acta said. "I wanted Altuve to have a different look."
Acta went to his bullpen, calling upon Joe Smith to put out a seventh-inning fire.
"Smitty's our guy," Acta said. "Why take the chance with Ubaldo there after he had been giving us everything he gave us? Plus, walking the guy in front of him kind of did it for me."
Vinnie Pestano and Chris Perez, who picked up his league-leading 23rd save, followed Smith to the mound collectively retiring all seven batters they faced.
Ubaldo looks like changed pitcher in latest stretch
HOUSTON -- Friday's starting pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez joined Derek Lowe in the seven-win club, which is tied for 12th most in the American League.
"It's a different ballgame for him right now," Tribe manager Manny Acta said. "His command issues are much better now than they were at the beginning of the season. Earlier in the year, when his command wasn't there, he got into some situations where as soon as he gets a couple of guys on base, things just unraveled for him."
"Right now, he's not panicking out there," Acta said. "He gets on the mound and makes pitches. He's a guy that we need to trust and let him go out there and do it because he's done it in the past."
Jimenez has allowed no more than one earned run in three of his last four starts. He is 2-1 with a 2.05 ERA and 25 strikeouts over 26 1/3 innings. The righty has held opposing hitters to a .216 batting average over that span.
Tribe not rattled by new opponents in Interleague Play
HOUSTON -- Facing teams from a different league that you aren't familiar with has its challenges. Friday's win evened the Tribe's Interleague record at 8-8 for the season.
But veteran Johnny Damon has been through those trials and tribulations, coming to the conclusion that for the most part, baseball is baseball.
"It's a little different," Damon said. "We have a few pitchers that can hit pretty well. The games normally go a little bit quicker. There's more strategy."
Trying to hit pitching you don't normally see on a regular basis is perhaps the greatest task.
"It's always tough," Damon said. "We don't know much about their team, but we still have to go out and play our best baseball, and hopefully it's good enough to win a couple of games here."
Preparation from the dugout is somewhat different as well.
"I obviously like it better when it's on the American League side, so that I can use my DH," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "I do like Interleague. I like seeing players that otherwise we wouldn't be able to see.
"The challenge is being able to trust the advance scout and the video work that you do," he said. "It's such a short series that even if you get the right information, a guy can go off."
Lopez excited to take turn in cleanup spot
HOUSTON -- Indians first baseman Jose Lopez was penciled into the cleanup spot for Saturday's game at Minute Maid Park. It's a role he relishes.
"There's no pressure," said Lopez, who entered Saturday's game with just two hits in his last 20 at-bats and just three in 28 trips to the plate since June 7, dropping his batting average from .277 to .238.
"I've played there before. I just try to do my job, try to bring the guys in to home plate and do my job."
Catcher Carlos Santana was moved from fourth to sixth in the batting order for Saturday's game. Lopez said he doesn't feel any sense of urgency to be the spark for the offense.
"When you win, you're happy," he said. "If you swing bad or good, when you win you're happy about it. Everybody wants to score a lot of runs with everybody hitting on the team, but when you win, nobody thinks about it."
Lopez said he likes the spotlight and doesn't shy away from the job of being the team's key run-producer.
"I like pressure situations," he said.
• Over the last three games, the Indians pitching staff has allowed just three runs. Over 28 innings the Tribe staff has compiled a 0.64 ERA yielding just 16 hits, two earned runs and six walks while striking out 25. The starting pitching has been the key with Josh Tomlin, Justin Masterson and Ubaldo Jimenez combining to allow only two runs (one earned) in 22 1/3 innings (13 hits) for a 0.40 ERA.
• The Indians are 23-2 when Vinnie Pestano and Chris Perez appear in the same game.
• Johnny Damon is 6-for-12 (.500) with a homer, two doubles and three RBIs over his last four games.
• The Indians are in Houston for the first time since the 2001 season. That was their first visit to Minute Maid Park. Cleveland is 5-5 all-time in Houston and 3-3 vs. the Astros in Cleveland.
Glenn Sattell is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.