Lindor Launches 32nd as Tribe Sweeps Angels; Indians 4, Angels 1

Edwin Encarnacion and Francisco Lindor each homered and the Cleveland relief corps handled the rest on Thursday as the Indians completed the three-game sweep in Anaheim of the Los Angeles Angels, 4-1.

It was a “bullpen day” kind of effort on the mound for the Indians (96-57), who used six different pitchers to wrap up the season series sweep of the Angels while remaining a game in back of the neighbor Los Angeles Dodgers for the best record in all of baseball. The win increased the Indians’ club record for consecutive road wins to 14 in a row while putting the Tribe at a 27-1 mark in its last 28 games. That feat has been accomplished just three times in Major League Baseball history.

Danny Salazar made a spot start on Thursday for the Tribe with much on the line. With plenty of questions about how manager Terry Francona might compose his playoff roster, Salazar is one of several candidates on the chopping block for potential roles in the bullpen. A few of those other options took their turns on the mound in the ball game, but Salazar’s spot as a long-man or one-inning flamethrower is anything but secured after injuries and ineffectiveness knocked him out of the starting rotation earlier in the month in favor of Mike Clevinger and Josh Tomlin. His start would not give much, in regards to answers about his role come October.

Lindor - Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
Lindor – Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Los Angeles held an early lead in the contest, plating a first inning run against Salazar. Brandon Phillips started the Angels half of the first with a single, but was gunned down at second by Jay Bruce while trying to stretch his hit to a double. Mike Trout drew a walk and came in to score two batters later on a two-out double to left-center by Albert Pujols to give Los Angeles a 1-0 lead.

As has seemed to be the case nearly every time the Indians have trailed over the last month, that deficit was quickly erased. Encarnacion led off the second against Angels right-hander Parker Bridwell, who entered with a shiny 8-2 record on the season (even more impressive, Los Angeles had gone 16-2 in games started by their early season acquisition, but Thursday would not be one of those wins). After taking a first pitch fastball for a strike, Encarnacion pulled a slider just over the wall in left for his 37th homer of the year to tie the game at one.

Salazar left after walking Trout with two outs in the bottom of the third. In his audition for a possible role in the playoffs, he lasted two and two-thirds, giving up one run on two hits with a pair of walks and four strikeouts. He threw 54 pitches, 34 of which crossed the plate for strikes. He did well to get in front of opposing hitters early in the count, doing so with first pitch strikes to eight of the eleven hitters that he faced on the day.

The Indians offense wasted a two-out double by Bruce in the top of the fourth, but would strike through to take the lead with a big swing from their All-Star shortstop in their next trip to the batter’s box. Yan Gomes and Giovanny Urshela eached singled before Erik Gonzalez hit into a fielder’s choice, with Gomes cut down at third for the first out. Lindor stepped to the plate as the lineup flipped over for its third trip through and, after taking a slider off the plate, he sent a fastball low in the zone deep to center and into the trees beyond the wall there for a three-run blast to put the Indians up, 4-1.

His 32nd long ball of the season would prove to be the final runs of the game.

Salazar - Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
Salazar – Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Zach McAllister and Dan Otero were the first two to relief Salazar for Francona. McAllister worked an inning and two-thirds, allowing just one walk. Otero also allowed just one base runner while working a similar inning and two-thirds.

Andrew Miller took the mound in the seventh. He was expected to get in work over two innings, but a long and challenging seventh led to a shorter outing. He struck out Pujols to start his appearance but walked Kole Calhoun. Andrelton Simmons reached on an infield single to put two on for Luis Valbuena, who walked to load the bases. The next six pitches registered for strikes as Miller struck out C.J. Cron and Martin Maldonado swinging to escape the jam with the potential go-ahead run at the plate.

Nick Goody struck out a pair in the eighth, working around a one-out infield single by Trout off of the glove of Urshela at third. Tyler Olson took the mound in the ninth looking for his first MLB save and got the job done, striking out Calhoun, getting Simmons to line to second, and getting a beautiful defensive gem from Urshela for the final out as the third baseman ranged into foul territory and made a strong leaping throw across his body and across the diamond to first to throw out Valbuena to end the last ditch hopes of the Halos.

The Angels (76-76) fell back to the .500 mark with the defeat and lost a half-game in the AL Wild Card race. The Minnesota Twins were set to play later in the evening against the Detroit Tigers.

Bridwell suffered his third loss of the season. He worked five and one-third innings, allowing four runs on five hits with a pair of walks and two strikeouts. Two home run balls would prove to be the difference on his afternoon. His bullpen teammates kept the Tribe in check the rest of the way, firing three and two-thirds innings of one-hit relief.

The Indians will now head north to Seattle, where they will play three games over the weekend. The Mariners will get a taste of the Tribe’s best starting pitching, as Trevor Bauer, Carlos Carrasco, and Corey Kluber are scheduled as the starters for the three-game set, the Indians final road trip of the 2017 regular season schedule. It will be the first start in a week for each of the well-rested right-handers.

Game one of the three-game series from Safeco Field is scheduled for a 10:10 PM ET start in Seattle on Friday night.

Photo: Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

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