Ubaldo Jimenez is in peak form one day and a mess the next time out. Cleveland manager Manny Acta is just hoping for a little consistency.
After silencing baseball's highest-scoring offense in his previous start, the right-hander was touched up for seven runs on nine hits and five walks Friday night, putting the Indians in an early hole before a late rally fell short in a 7-5 loss to the Boston Red Sox.
"We haven't given up on guys, position players who play every single day and struggle worse than this in the past, and we're not going to give up on him," Acta said. "We're not going to just throw our arms and go, 'This is him.' That's not him.
"He showed that (six) days ago against the best lineup in the American League."
Fresh off a brilliant start in which he limited the Texas Rangers to two hits over seven scoreless innings, Jimenez (3-3) had difficulty locating the strike zone against the Red Sox, throwing only 58 of his 99 pitches for strikes before departing after 4 1-3 innings, his shortest outing of the season.
"He's human, just like you and I. I wish every single one of them he could go seven innings, two hits, no runs. But that's not reality," Acta said. "We just want to see more consistency."
Jimenez, an All-Star with Colorado in 2010 when he went 19-8, said the biggest difference between his sparkling start against Texas and his rough one against Boston was the command on his fastball. The adjustments to his mechanics are coming along well, though.
"I'm probably going to have a good game like the last one, then a bad one like this one, but I have to keep working," he said. "It's just the mechanics. That's something that we found out. I've been working on it."
Clay Buchholz pitched effectively into the seventh inning and Dustin Pedroia had three hits and three RBIs for the Red Sox, who snapped a three-game skid.
Will Middlebrooks hit a two-run double off Jimenez and Daniel Nava, called up from the minors Thursday, made a pair of outstanding defensive plays to help the last-place Red Sox (13-19) win for only the second time this month.
Boston had lost 11 of its last 12 home games and eight of nine overall.
David Ortiz went 1 for 3 and scored a run but left in the seventh due to a sore left heel. Ortiz was involved in a minor car accident on his way to Fenway Park but said before the game that he was uninjured.
Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine said he thought Ortiz got hurt striding toward the bag on his infield hit in the fifth.
Buchholz (4-1) allowed four runs — three earned — and eight hits over 6 1-3 innings. He walked three and did not have a strikeout.
"It still wasn't easy tonight. There were still times when things could have gotten bad," said Buchholz, who had given up five or more earned runs in each of his first six starts this season.
Five relievers followed Buchholz, with Alfredo Aceves earning his sixth save in eight chances.
Buchholz got off to a shaky start. He retired his first two batters but allowed a walk and consecutive base hits by Travis Hafner and Carlos Santana to give the Indians a 1-0 lead.
The right-hander then hit Shin-Soo Choo with a pitch and Valentine went out to the mound. Buchholz retired Michael Brantley to end the inning.
"I think our opportunities were early in the game, but then after that he got into a very good groove and he moved his fastball in and out and used that changeup of his. It's a very good pitch," Acta said. "He's as tough as it gets when he's going well."
Buchholz toyed with trouble in the second and third, but Nava made two excellent plays in the outfield. In the second, he came up firing after Jason Kipnis' single to cut down Jack Hannahan at the plate. Nava was aided by catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who blocked the plate and tagged out Hannahan after he missed it.
In the third inning, with runners on second and third, Nava made a running catch near the left-field stands to end the threat.
Buchholz retired 10 of 11 hitters before loading the bases on consecutive singles and a walk in the seventh. Rich Hill and Andrew Miller closed out the inning, but not before the Indians cut the lead to 7-4.
Aceves allowed one run in the ninth.
Leading 1-0 after Santana's RBI in the first, Jimenez walked Pedroia and Ortiz and hit Adrian Gonzalez with a pitch to load the bases. Middlebrooks drilled a double into left field to give the Red Sox a 2-1 advantage.
Pedroia doubled home Nick Punto, who singled to snap an 0-for-19 slide, and Ryan Sweeney to extend Boston's lead to 4-1 in the second.
The Red Sox chased Jimenez in the fifth. Nava walked and scored on a double by Cody Ross, who scored on a base hit by Sweeney to put Boston up 6-1. Pedroia's sacrifice fly off reliever Dan Wheeler made it 7-1.
Jimenez has walked 30 batters in 40 innings this season.
"His first-pitch strike ratio was very low," Acta said. "When he allowed those first four runs he was barely throwing 50 percent of his pitches for strikes. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to know that you just can't survive up here doing that, no matter who you are."
Santana had two RBIs and Hafner was 2 for 3 with an RBI for the Indians, who dropped to 10-4 on the road.
NOTES: Indians third base coach Steve Smith was ejected for arguing the play at the plate in the second inning. Acta replaced Smith. ... Johnny Damon's run in the seventh was the 1,647th of his career, tying him with Cal Ripken Jr. for 34th place. ... Henry Mahegan was the public address announcer. The Red Sox went without one Thursday in tribute to former PA announcer Carl Beane, who died on Wednesday.