Indians beat Angels for 26th win in 27 games
ANAHEIM, Calif. — The Los Angeles Angels picked a bad time to face the hottest team major league baseball has seen in many years.
The Angels are chasing Minnesota for the second American League wild card, and the Twins lost Wednesday for the fifth time in six games.
Unfortunately for the Angels, they are in the middle of a series with the Cleveland Indians, who continued their torrid pace with a 6-5 win over Los Angeles on Wednesday at Angel Stadium.
For the second night in a row, the Angels (76-75) missed a chance to move within a half-game of the Twins, instead remaining 1 1/2 games out. Los Angeles has only 11 games remaining.
“We’ve got a game tomorrow,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “Our goal hasn’t changed, our focus hasn’t changed, our mission hasn’t changed. The process is: We need to come out first pitch tomorrow and start to get the game on our terms.
“These guys know it; they don’t need any speeches. They know what it’s about. They played a little better game tonight, which is good. We did some things in the batter’s box; we’ve got to carry it over tomorrow. Get a lead, hold the lead, and that’s what we’ve got to do.”
As for the Indians (95-57), it’s a happy case of same ol’, same ol’. They have won four in a row and 26 of 27. Their last loss other than the setback to the Kansas City Royals on Friday that ended their 22-game winning streak came on Aug. 23, nearly a month ago.
With the American League Central title secured, the Indians would like to finish with the majors’ best record and secure home-field advantage throughout the playoffs and World Series.
On Aug. 23, right before the Indians began their streak, they were 69-56, 20 games behind the Los Angeles Dodgers (89-36 at the time). Now, they are one game behind the Dodgers in the chase for the top record.
“That’s what a winning streak will do for you, especially one of that magnitude,” Indians starter Josh Tomlin said. “Twenty back? And to be able to be only one game back now, that shows a lot of heart and a lot of character in this clubhouse. It just speaks volumes about this organization and this team.”
The defeat was the Angels’ third in a row. To make matters worse, they play the Indians again in the series finale on Thursday afternoon.
The pivotal inning Wednesday was the seventh, when the Indians scored three times to snap a 2-2 tie. The pivotal hit was a two-run home run by Francisco Lindor. Edwin Encarnacion chipped in with an RBI single.
Lindor’s homer was his 31st of the season, the most in major league history by a switch-hitting shortstop.
“When you have talent, the moment’s not too big for them,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “You see the best of (Lindor’s) talent (in those situations). I know we feel good when he comes up.”
The Angels nearly came back in the bottom of the seventh, mounting a rally with two outs against former Angels reliever Joe Smith. Ben Revere singled, and Brandon Phillips followed with a double. When right fielder Jay Bruce’s throw to second hit Phillips on the leg, Revere scooted home to make it 5-3.
Mike Trout then blooped one into right field for a double, scoring Phillips to make it 5-4. Smith and the Indians escaped, though, when Justin Upton grounded out.
Jose Ramirez’s two-out single in the eighth inning scored Austin Jackson to give the Indians a necessary insurance run, because Albert Pujols led off the bottom of the eighth with a home run off Smith, cutting the deficit to 6-5. It was Pujols’ 23rd of the season and No. 614 in his career.
Both starting pitchers — Tomlin and Los Angeles’ Ricky Nolasco — were finished before the end of the sixth inning. Tomlin gave up two runs and seven hits in 5 1/3 innings. Nolasco allowed two runs and five hits in five innings.
Indians lefty Tyler Olson (1-0) got the win over Yusmeiro Petit (5-1). Bryan Shaw pitched the final two innings for Cleveland, earning his third save, striking out Trout to end it.
“We did a lot of good things tonight, because I thought (the Angels) did a lot of good things,” Francona said. “That was a fun game to be a part of. It looked like two teams that really wanted to win.”
NOTES: Indians OF Michael Brantley’s hopes of playing in the postseason took a hit. A second opinion on his sprained right ankle confirmed the initial diagnosis of a deltoid ligament sprain along with right ankle synovitis. Brantley must shut down all running activities for seven to 10 days before being re-evaluated. ... LF Justin Upton has hit as well in his short time with the Angels as he did with the Tigers before he was acquired in an Aug. 31 trade. His overall totals of 32 homers and 104 RBIs are career highs, four of the homers and 10 of the RBIs coming in 17 games with the Angels. Upton’s batting average (.286/.279), on-base percentage (.420/.362), slugging percentage (.589/.542) and OPS (1.010/.904) are all better with the Angels than with the Tigers.