EditorsNote: updates 11th graf with Twins’ win
Lindor’s homer helps Indians complete sweep of Angels
ANAHEIM, Calif. — It does not seem to matter who they are playing, where they are playing or even who is in the lineup. The Cleveland Indians just keep winning.
Indians manager Terry Francona gave regular starters Jose Ramirez, Jason Kipnis and Austin Jackson a day off and his starting pitcher Danny Salazar lasted only 2 2/3 innings.
But the Indians won again, completing a three-game sweep of the Los Angeles Angels with a 4-1 win Thursday afternoon at Angel Stadium.
Francona had considered giving shortstop Francisco Lindor a day off as well, knowing he had started 149 of the club’s 152 games before Thursday. But Lindor insisted on playing and responded with a decisive three-run home run in the fifth inning that lifted Cleveland to its fifth consecutive win.
“Dude, we got an off-day on Monday,” Lindor said of his reaction to Francona’s thoughts on resting him. “Play whenever you have a chance to play, and (on scheduled) off days just make sure you rest up.”
Lindor, 23, said he feels fresh, and even feels better than he did at this time last season.
“I don’t know if it’s because I’ve already been through it, or because I’m staying in the gym a little more than last year,” he said. “I am doing my nutrition, trying to eat better and sleep a little bit more. I don’t know what it is, just continue to play the game and hope for the best.”
It was the Indians’ 27th win in 28 games, and their 15th straight victory on the road. The major league record for consecutive road wins is 21, held by the 1983-84 Detroit Tigers (four wins to finish the 1983 season and 17 to start 1984).
Having wrapped up the American League Central crown, the Indians have their eyes on catching the Dodgers for the best record in the majors and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs and World Series. The Dodgers also won Thursday and remain one game up on the Indians, but Lindor said the standings will take care of themselves.
“We just focus on what we have in front of us,” he said. “We really don’t focus on any other teams. We understand playing the Angels is pretty tough itself, so if we start worrying about other teams we’re not playing, we won’t be as successful.”
The loss for the Angels was their fourth in a row and another blow to their playoff hopes. It’s their longest losing streak since they lost six in a row in April and, more importantly, they fell 2 1/2 games behind the Minnesota Twins in the race for the second wild card.
The good news for the Angels is that they won’t have to play the Indians again this season, unless they meet in the playoffs.
“They’re good, but any team can be beaten if you’re doing the things you need to do and do them consistently enough,” Los Angeles manager Mike Scioscia said. “One thing is for sure, when you open up the door for a good team like that, you’re pretty sure they’re going to take advantage of it and they did this afternoon.
“They’re a terrific club, and deep in a lot of areas. We can’t focus on who we’re playing or where we’re playing, but how we’re playing. And I think it’s pretty evident that when we’ve done things that we’re good at on a consistent basis, we’re going to set games up and give ourselves a chance to win. We just didn’t do it in this series.”
The Angels, like they did in the previous two games of the series, had their opportunities. Down 4-1 and facing Indians reliever Andrew Miller in the seventh, Los Angeles loaded the bases on two walks and a single with one out.
But Miller struck out C.J. Cron and Martin Maldonado to get out of the inning.
Things started out promising for the Angels as they took an early lead. Mike Trout walked with one out in the first inning against Salazar and scored on Albert Pujols’ two-out double.
The Indians tied the game in the second on a solo homer by Edwin Encarnacion, his 37th, off Angels starter Parker Bridwell.
The game remained tied at 1-1 until the fifth, when Lindor’s homer turned the game in the Indians’ favor. But the inning was set up by a couple of balls that hit the gloves of Angel defenders before falling in for hits.
Leading off the inning, catcher Yan Gomes hit a pop up to shallow right-center. Center fielder Trout, second baseman Brandon Phillips and right fielder Kole Calhoun converged, with Calhoun trying to make the catch but the ball bounced off the heel of his glove and fell in.
“There were a lot of things involved, there was wind, there was sun, positioning, it was kind of in the Bermuda Triangle,” Scioscia said. “Kole was the guy at the last second that had the best run at it, but he went a long way for that ball and couldn’t get to it.”
Giovanny Urshela then hit a line drive that shortstop Andrelton Simmons tried to catch with a leap, but the ball deflected off the top of his glove and landed in left field for a single.
After Erik Gonzalez hit into a force play on a failed sacrifice attempt, Lindor made sure it didn’t matter, crushing a 91 mph fastball from Bridwell over the fence in center.
Bridwell (8-3) got the loss after giving up four runs on five hits and two walks in 5 1/3 innings.
Following Salazar, the Indians used five relievers to finish the game, with Tyler Olson pitching the ninth for his first save.
Zach McAllister (2-2) pitched 1 2/3 innings to get the win, giving up no runs, no hits and one walk.
NOTES: With the Indians resting three regulars, 2B Erik Gonzalez, CF Greg Allen and LF Abraham Almonte were in the starting lineup. ... Angels DH Albert Pujols’ RBI double in the first inning increased his season RBI total to 98. With two more RBIs he will join Alex Rodriguez as the only players in major league history to have 14 100-RBI seasons. Pujols also had 99 RBIs in 2011 with St. Louis and 95 in 2015 with the Angels. No player has had 15 100-RBI seasons.