OAKLAND -- As Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis made the turn around third base, sprinting toward home plate in the fifth inning on Friday night, he got a glimpse of the throw unleashed by A's right fielder Josh Reddick. Kipnis put his head down, pumped his arms and heeded the words of third-base coach Steve Smith.
"He was saying, 'Got to go! Got to go!'" Kipnis said following Cleveland's 4-3 victory at the Coliseum.
And so Kipnis went, tossing the baserunning textbook away during his last few steps. The young second baseman closed in on catcher Anthony Recker and slid headfirst, slapping the plate as he narrowly avoided the tag. When Kipnis popped up, dirt smeared across his uniform, he let out a shout and pumped his fist.
Kipnis' reaction was part joy over scoring what turned out to be the game's decisive run and part relief over finding home plate again. Kipnis has been searching for some semblance of his usual self at the plate in recent days and his mad dash against Oakland -- one that helped seal another road win for the Tribe -- ushered in some personal satisfaction.
"It was the first time I scored in about 10 games," Kipnis said with a trace of sarcasm. "No, you know what? You appreciate every run that you get. That turned out to be a big run for us in the end. It turned out to be a bigger play than I thought at the time."
It was big, because it helped the Indians improve their record to 6-1 on the current three-city swing through Kansas City, Seattle and Oakland. It was also big because it helped make a winner of Tribe starter Ubaldo Jimenez, who also has been on the hunt for signs of his former self.
Like Kipnis, Jimenez was able to smile some after Cleveland's latest win despite having a rough outing. Thanks to just enough run support and some solid defense, Jimenez's woes on the mound were not debilitating for the Indians. The right-hander admittedly had trouble locating his pitches, but he gutted out six innings and came away with his second win of the year.
Asked how he made it through six, Jimenez let out a nervous laugh.
"I don't know," said Jimenez, who is 2-0 with a 4.00 ERA through three outings this season. "I didn't have anything. I mean, I knew it. They knew it. Even my dugout knew it. I was able to find a way to get out of there, but I didn't have anything."
Oakland tagged Jimenez for two runs on six hits, including a solo home run in the third inning from Reddick. The Indians starter -- much scrutinized since being acquired from the Rockies in a blockbuster trade last July -- issued five walks and ended with just three strikeouts in a 107-pitch performance.
The A's made things interesting by adding a run on the Indians' bullpen in the seventh inning, but that was the extent of their rally. Setup man Vinnie Pestano and closer Chris Perez locked things down for the final two innings, sealing the win for the Tribe. Perez picked up his fifth save of the season.
"I think the key for us today was our bullpen," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "[Joe] Smith and Pestano and Perez did a nice job slamming the door."
Jimenez said he knew from the start it was going to be a difficult night.
"I was battling since the first inning," Jimenez said. "I threw my split, they hit a home run on a hanging split. I threw the changeup. I think it was the best pitch and I threw it like two times for a strike. I didn't have the slider. I didn't have the curve. I didn't have anything."
What Jimenez did have was some help.
"I wasn't pitching good," he said, "but I was able to fight and the guys made it really easy for me. They went out there and scored some runs and played really good defense. That helped a lot, but definitely I have to find a way to get better."
The Indians lineup drew nine walks, including five against A's starter Graham Godfrey (0-3), who bowed out after giving up four runs in five innings. Cleveland third baseman Jack Hannahan did the bulk of the damage with three RBIs, including two on a two-out double that he sent slicing down the left-field line to put the Indians up 3-1 in the fourth inning.
Kipnis' run proved to be the difference in the end.
In the fifth inning, Godfrey hit Kipnis in the side with a pitch on a 3-0 count. Mired in an 0-for-10 slump, and hitting just .167 on the season, the second baseman was thrilled just to be heading to first.
"I had some adrenaline, so I didn't even feel it," Kipnis joked. "I was so happy to run to first base and not the dugout after my at-bat."
Kipnis promptly stole second base and then bolted for home when Shin-Soo Choo sent a pitch from Godfrey into right field for a single.
Acta cringed a little when he saw Kipnis sliding headfirst into the plate.
"We don't encourage guys to do that," Acta said. "Obviously, it's not something that we teach. It's very dangerous, but it's something that happens in the heat of the moment. It's tough, because guys just want to score and get to the plate the best way possible."
"That was a very nice slide. A great throw by Reddick, but the slide was just fantastic."