CLEVELAND -- The performance of the Indians' starting pitching might be buried in the box score, hidden beneath the heap of extra innings piled up over the course of this season's first two ballgames, but it is certainly not forgotten within the team's clubhouse.
Cleveland's first two losses have been full of wasted opportunities -- the kind that have squandered masterful showings from the team's starters. Any defeat spawns dissatisfaction, but there was an elevated sense of discontent in the aftermath of the Tribe's 7-4, 12-inning loss to the Blue Jays on Saturday at Progressive Field.
"It's the second game in a row our starting pitching has done a great job -- more than enough to win," Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis said. "I'm not going to lie, these games are frustrating. If it keeps going like this, it will get more and more frustrating. But, this team is still looking to kind of turn it around."
The latest recipient of low run support was Indians right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez, who pushed his spring struggles to the background and engaged in an impressive pitchers' duel with Toronto's Brandon Morrow. Jimenez carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning, using some jaw-dropping -- and knee-buckling -- breaking balls to keep the Blue Jays at bay.
Jimenez eventually flinched, though, and headed into the clubhouse with a no-decision for his work in a strong seven-inning effort. On Opening Day on Thursday, Cleveland sinkerballer Justin Masterson had the same result after logging eight stellar innings against Toronto in one of the greatest season-opening performances in Tribe history.
In both games, Cleveland's offense labored and its bullpen faltered, leaving Jimenez and Masterson empty handed when it was all said and done. Standing at his locker after the Indians' latest marathon loss, Jimenez expressed hope that his teammates -- specifically, the ones charged with wielding bats -- will indeed turn things around.
"Winning games is all about ptiching," Jimenez said. "So when you have Masterson and me having good games, that's a good sign for the team. That's when the other guys will do everything possible to try to throw the same. The offense is going to come along. One of these days, the guys are going to start hitting again. It's just the beginning of the season."
Through the first two games, Cleveland's offense has hit just .135 (12-for-89) as a team.
There is an old baseball adage that says a baseball season is a marathon -- not a sprint.
Cleveland and Toronto appear to be experimenting with an ultramarathon.
Thursday's Opening Day affair lasted 16 innings, representing the longest season opener in terms of innings in the long history of Major League Baseball. By going 12 innings on Saturday afternoon, the clubs became the first to log at least that many frames in consecutive games to begin a campaign since 1969.
No matter the amount of innings, the Indians netted the same result as a year ago by dropping their first two games of the season.
"I'll take this over the first two games from last year," said Indians manager Manny Acta, who pounded his fist on his desk for emphasis. "We gave up 14 runs in the first three innings [on Opening Day 2011]. We had a chance to win both of these games. You've got to like that better."
Acta is known for doing all he can to sift through the wreckage to find any positives.
Of course, it did not take much digging to locate optimism over the outing fashioned by Jimenez.
"Ubaldo was terrific," Acta said. "He was very confident."
Following a spring in which the righty posted a 7.43 ERA and was hit with a five-game suspension that he will begin serving immediately, Jimenez was perfect through the first 17 hitters he faced. He did not allow run until the seventh, ending the day with three strikeouts against three walks.
In that frame, Jimenez issued a pair of walks, threw a wild pitch and watched his missteps come back to bite him in the form of a two-run single off the bat of Brett Lawrie. That erased the 2-0 advantage Cleveland built against Morrow -- Kipnis belted a two-run homer off the righty in the fifth -- in his seven innings of one-hit dominance.
"I got myself in trouble, walking those two guys," Jimenez said. "Pretty much every time you start walking guys you get in the danger zone."
After Jimenez and Morrow bowed out of the ballgame, both clubs showed some fight as the game persisted. Kelly Johnson belted a leadoff home run off Indians reliever Vinnie Pestano in the top of the ninth inning and Asdrubal Cabrera answered with a solo blast for the Tribe in the home half of the frame to tie the game at 3.
The Blue Jays finally pulled away with a four-run burst in the 12th inning, which was more than sufficient in holding off one final rally by the Indians.
"We're doing some things right," Acta said. "When you have two hits and you're playing baseball in the 12th inning, it means you're doing some stuff right. We're pitching and catching the ball well. We just haven't been able to break out offensively. But, it's only two games."
Two games that have undoubtedly been frustrating for the Indians given the strength of their starting pitching.
"[Ubaldo] definitely pitched good enough to win," Kipnis said. "He looked a little bit more determined -- a little bit more ready -- than we might've seen in spring. That was good to see. He kind of came out on fire and just kind of stayed that way."