While some debate whether the Indians have peaked too early, Cleveland has continued to go to the field and continue to do what it does best – win. It was another big win for the club on Tuesday night, as it opened its final road trip of the regular season with a 6-3 win over the Los Angeles Angels in Anaheim.
The Indians (94-57) once again made 100 wins a possibility as the team pulled within six wins with eleven to play from becoming just the third squad in franchise history to hit the century mark in victories in a season. If they can accomplish the task, they will join the 1954 and 1995 teams as the only others to do so. The Indians would need to go 6-5 in its remaining games to reach the win plateau.
The Tribe has now won 25 of its last 26 games.
The Tribe once again got after a big win with a team effort, getting another strong start from Mike Clevinger, big contributions at the plate from Jay Bruce, Austin Jackson, Roberto Perez, and Edwin Encarnacion, and a shaky but steady performance from the bullpen to bring home another victory.
The Indians had base runners in each of the first three innings against Angels left-hander Tyler Skaggs, but could not score. Jackson singled for the first of four times on the night with one out in the first but was forced at second to end the inning two batters later. Bruce started his big night with a one-out single in the second, but two outs in the air left him standing at first. Perez’s leadoff single in the third would be erased two batters later on an inning-ending double play ball off of the bat of Jackson, the only time he would be retired on the night.
Clevinger sailed through three hitless innings. Los Angeles got a runner on in the second on a one-out walk and a second on catcher’s interference in the third, but just as the Tribe did in the top of the inning, a double play ball ended the frame.
The Indians got on the board in the fourth. Jose Ramirez walked and Encarnacion singled before Carlos Santana grounded into a double play with Ramirez forced at third. With a runner at second and two outs, Bruce doubled deep to the wall in right-center, driving in Encarnacion to put the Indians on top, 1-0.
The Tribe tacked on another in the fifth after another no-hit inning from Clevinger. After Jason Kipnis grounded to short, Perez jumped on a 1-0 fastball and crushed a solo shot to right-center, giving the Indians a 2-0 lead.
The Angels would finally record a hit against Clevinger in the fifth and would put three different men on base, but would be caught trying to steal twice in the inning. On the latter one, Kole Calhoun, who had notched the first hit of the game for the Angels to start the inning, would score as Perez threw through to second, with Valbuena eventually tagged out after getting caught in a run down.
Cleveland quickly responded to the run by Los Angeles to push their lead back to two runs. Skaggs retired Santana to start the inning and turned the game over to Jose Alvarez, who gave up the third hit of the game to Bruce, who tripled to deep right. Blake Wood came on in relief to face Yandy Diaz, who blooped a single just inside the right field line to score Bruce before getting thrown out trying to advance to second. The out derailed the inning, but the Indians had a 3-1 lead.
After his tough fifth inning, Clevinger returned for the bottom of the sixth. Martin Maldonado singled to start the inning, but the Tribe right-hander struck out Brandon Phillips before getting a big double play grounder from Mike Trout to end the inning and Clevinger’s night with another quality start achieved.
The Indians got a scoreless inning of relief from Andrew Miller in the seventh before Bryan Shaw made things a bit interesting in the bottom of the eighth. He retired the first two batters, getting a comebacker and a strikeout, before C.J. Cron singled. Ben Revere pinch-hit for Maldonado and singled to center. The former Indian Phillips followed with the third straight single of the inning, driving in Cron to make it a one-run game. With runners on the corners and the dangerous Trout at the plate, Shaw got him to ground out to second to leave the score at 3-2.
Cleveland would get a huge insurance inning in its final at bats, facing reliever Bud Norris. Greg Allen singled to right with one out and stole second before Perez was cut down swinging. Francisco Lindor was intentionally walked and Jackson delivered a big run with a single to right, scoring Allen from second to make it a 4-2 game. Ramirez worked a walk to load the bases for Encarnacion, who was nearly erased on a pop up in foul territory before slapping a two-run single over the head of the shortstop to make it a 6-2 lead.
Cody Allen came on for the final three outs, giving up a moonshot to Justin Upton to center before retiring the next three batters in order to secure the 6-3 win.
With the loss, the Angels (76-74) missed out on an opportunity to pick up a game on the Minnesota Twins in the Wild Card race, as they lost as well on Tuesday.
Clevinger (11-5) earned a win against the club that drafted him behind another quality start. He worked six innings, allowing a run on three hits. He walked two batters and struck out six on the night. Skaggs took the loss, allowing two runs on eight hits with a walk and a strikeout over five and one-third innings of work.
The Indians offense was led by Bruce, who came a home run of hitting for the cycle in order. Jackson had four hits, drove in a run, and scored once. Encarnacion had two hits and two RBI and Perez had two hits, including his solo home run.
The Indians and Angels will return to the field for game two of their three-game set on Wednesday night. Josh Tomlin (9-9, 5.04 ERA) will take the mound for Cleveland, looking to become the fifth member of the pitching staff to record ten wins on the season. He has won five straight decisions for the Tribe. Left-hander Ricky Nolasco (6-14, 5.11) will counter for the Angels. He is 0-3 with a 5.32 ERA and a 1.29 WHIP in eight career games (seven starts) against the Indians.
First pitch from Angel Stadium is scheduled for 10:07 PM ET on Wednesday night.
Photo: Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images