Sunday brought more bad weather to the city of Cleveland, but at the end of the day, the results were the same for the Indians as baseball was played and won by the Tribe in a 5-4 victory over the Los Angeles Angels to complete a four-game series sweep of the Halos.
The Indians (67-48) now own the best record in the American League as they matched a season-high 19 games above the .500 mark with the win. They have won four straight and five of their last six to get back on track while pushing their lead in the AL Central Division to five games. That lead did not budge on Sunday, as the Detroit Tigers won for the second straight day in Texas. The four-game sweep of the Angels was the Indians’ first since 1999.
Speaking of 1999, Los Angeles (49-68) has pulled within one game of matching their longest losing streak since that season, when they dropped eleven straight. They went 0-9 on their road trip against Seattle, the Chicago Cubs, and Cleveland.
The Indians jumped out in front first on Sunday, but the lead was short lived and quickly turned into a sizeable deficit. Against Jered Weaver in the bottom of the first, Jason Kipnis left the yard with his 20th home run of the season to give the Tribe an early lead. After a two-out single from Mike Napoli, who advanced to second on a wild pitch, Jose Ramirez singled to right but Napoli was thrown out at the plate by plenty by Angels Gold Glove right fielder Kole Calhoun to leave it a 1-0 game.
That play would prove costly three batters later as LA took the lead. Jefry Marte was hit by a pitch and moved to second on a grounder to first. Ji-Man Choi jumped on the first pitch he saw from Trevor Bauer and turned the ball into a two-run souvenir as the Angels took a 2-1 lead.
It turned into a two-run lead the next inning as Nick Buss, in his second game with the Angels, tripled to right as Lonnie Chisenhall slipped on the wet outfield grass trying to cut the ball off from going to the wall. He scored easily on a grounder to short to make it a 3-1 game. In the fourth, the Angels added another run on a Geovany Soto homer to the bleachers to make it 4-1.
Weaver had settled in some after the early Cleveland threat, but a big inning in the fifth made the game close again. Tyler Naquin doubled to right and moved to third on a single by Abraham Almonte. A walk by Roberto Perez loaded the bases, but Carlos Santana grounded to Choi at first, who fired to the plate to force Naquin. Kipnis flied to shallow left for the second out, but on the verge of getting out of the inning unscathed, Weaver walked Lindor on four straight pitches to force in a run. Napoli grounded up the middle and Cliff Pennington went to second for the force instead of to first to get the slower Napoli. Lindor reached safely, allowing Almonte to score, but Pennington fired to the plate to catch Santana by several feet to end the inning. Angels manager Mike Scioscia challenged the call at second, but the ruling was upheld.
The Indians would make up for the two runners thrown out at the plate in the next inning as Ramirez singled to start the inning, stole second after a lineout by Chisenhall, and scored on another double to right by Naquin to tie the game at four. Weaver departed for Jose Valdez, who served up an RBI-single to Almonte to give the Indians the lead. Cleveland would load the bases after a walk by Perez and Kipnis, but Lindor fouled out to third to short-circuit the rally.
Manager Terry Francona went to his bullpen to relieve Bauer, who had kept the game close despite the four runs allowed. Andrew Miller retired all six that he faced in two innings of work, while Cody Allen came on in the ninth and struck out a pair while earning his 22nd save of the season.
The bottom of the Indians order (Naquin, Almonte, Perez) was 5-for-10 with two doubles, two walks, two RBI, and three runs scored.
BAUER WINS NINTH
Bauer (9-5, 3.97 ERA) earned his ninth win of the season by holding on just long enough for his offense to give him the lead while he was still the pitcher of record on the mound. He worked six innings on the afternoon, giving up four runs on five hits while walking two and striking out four.
He was hurt by a pair of long balls that accounted for three of the Angels’ four runs on the day. He threw first pitch strikes to 16 of the 24 batters that he faced and threw 61 of 94 pitches for strikes.
The tandem of Miller and Allen made quick work of the Angels, working three total innings and facing the minimum while striking out three. Miller earned his 19th hold of the season while throwing 19 of 23 pitches for strikes, lowering his ERA to 1.56 on the season. Allen struck out a pair, throwing nine of 16 pitches for strikes, and dropped his ERA to 2.34.
NOT THE SAME OLD WEAVER
Weaver (8-10, 5.32), who has had many years of success pitching at Progressive Field, has not had that same luck over the last two seasons. He was shelled for eight runs in his only appearance in Cleveland last year and followed it up on Sunday with a shaky outing, allowing the Indians to slowly claw their way right back into the game.
He worked five and one-third innings and was charged with five runs on ten hits. He walked a pair and failed to strike out anyone. He threw 51 of 91 pitches for strikes and threw a wild pitch.
STREAKING AND SWEEPING
Napoli and Ramirez extended their hitting streaks and again did so back-to-back in the first inning.
Napoli extended his streak to 14 games in the first with the first of his two singles in the game. He went 9-for-16 against his former club over the series.
Ramirez saw his streak grow to 18 with his first inning single. He had two on the day and scored his eighth run of the series, one in which he hit 7-for-17 to push his season batting average to .314.
Lindor’s nine-game hitting streak came to an end on Sunday with an 0-for-3 at the plate. He did draw a beneficial bases loaded walk, so it was not entirely a lost effort for the All-Star. He finished the series 7-for-16 against the Angels.
Pujols was tossed in the eighth inning after striking out against Miller to end the frame. He got into a heated argument with home plate umpire Clint Fagan before earning the privilege of an early shower.
“If you start the game with one strike zone, you can’t change it,” said Pujols after the game. “I just told him that [2-0 pitch] was terrible, then I walked away. It’s embarrassing.”
MEJIA’S MAGICAL RUN ENDS AT 50
Catching prospect Francisco Mejia of the High-A Lynchburg Hillcats got a late extension on his hitting streak on Saturday night, getting a little help from a postgame scoring change that credited him with a third inning double and the continuation of his hitting streak to 50.
There would be no such scoring change on Sunday, as the 20-year-old switch-hitter went 0-for-3 with a walk to finally bring to a close his incredible hitting mark, one of the most prolific performances in the history of professional baseball. He walked in the first inning, grounded to second in the third, popped to second in the fifth, and lined to center in the seventh as the Hillcats won a 6-0 shutout.
RAINING ON THE PARADE
Sunday’s game was delayed one hour and 38 minutes at the start due to the rain storms that have established a rent-free residence over northeast Ohio for much of the weekend. It was the third time in the series that a game had been delayed at some point, amassing nearly five hours of interference.
With the Angels heading out of town, the Indians will host the Boston Red Sox for one final time in the 2016 regular season as the two clubs make up a postponed game from the first week of the season.
Josh Tomlin (11-5, 4.18) will look to get his 12th win of the season, which has eluded him over each of his last two starts. In both, he has allowed seven earned runs and failed to complete the fifth. Former Indians draft pick Drew Pomeranz (8-9, 3.03) will go for the Red Sox. The left-hander is 0-2 in five starts since being acquired by Boston with a 5.26 ERA and 1.60 WHIP.
First pitch from Progressive Field is scheduled for 1:10 PM ET in what could be David Ortiz’s last Major League game in Cleveland (barring potential postseason appearances).
Photo: David Maxwell/Getty Images