By STEVE GOLDMAN
For the Star Beacon
One win didn't change the fact that it was a very bad home stand for the Indians. But in this case, the one win saved it from being a total disaster, changed the mood in the clubhouse and provided increased justification for hope about the team's playoff chances.
Down by five runs on Sunday and looking much like a fish flopping on the beach, the Indians pulled it together and rallied for a 6-5 win over the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim to salvage one game of the seven in the homestand and of the three in the weekend series.
“It's got to be,” manager Terry Francona said when it was suggested that the win would be good for the team’s morale. “The way the home stand went, we’ve got (Justin Masterson) on the mound, we feel good about ourselves and now we’re down 5-0. We’re into the bullpen quick, and then, bang! A couple balls hit good, and the next thing you know, we’re in it, we tie it and then we take the lead. It’s got to be great. It should be.”
Cleveland (63-55) is still seven games behind Detroit in the AL Central Division even after picking up one game, and in third place in the race for the second wild card berth, four in back of Oakland.
With two outs in the bottom of the sixth inning, it looked like it would be a brutal end to a brutal home stand. Masterson, the ace of the rotation, had piled up the pitches early and had left after 41⁄3 innings down 5-0. The defense had contributed to the problems. Asdrubal Cabrera had been ejected in the second inning for arguing after striking out. As for the offense, it had managed just one baserunner against 31 year-old journeyman Jerome Williams.
However, Michael Bourn lined a single to right-center for his team’s second safety. Nick Swisher followed with a two-run homer to left-center. Jason Kipnis then walked, and Mike Aviles belted one onto the left-field porch, slicing it to 5-4 and knocking Williams out of the game.
Buddy Boshers got the final out of the sixth, but with J.C. Gutierrez (loser, 0-3) on the hill to begin the seventh, Carlos Santana homered to right to tie it. One out later, Lonnie Chisenhall walked and Drew Stubbs singled up the middle to send Chisenhall to second.
Left-hander Nick Maronde was brought on to face Bourn, but the leadoff hitter lined his only pitch to left for an RBI single.
“All game long, (Bourn) was like, ‘Let’s play nine; let’s just keep playing,’” Francona said. “He was fairly vocal about it. And it was nice to see him get that hit.”
“I don’t know,” Bourn said when asked how the offense turned things around so suddenly. “I can’t really explain it to you. We just never gave up within the game.”
“Jerome came out of the gates, man,” Swisher said. “He was putting it to us. I started it off with that home run . It’s kind of crazy how this game works. You don’t score many runs (the Indians had tallied just 21 in the nine games prior to this one), and the next thing you know, four batters, four runs.”
Matt Albers (3-1), who retired all five batters that he faced, got the win. Joe Smith and Chris Perez (18th save) worked the eighth and ninth respectively.
Stubbs also turned in a big play in right field. With the score 5-0, Los Angeles (53-63) had men at first and second and one out in the sixth. Mark Trumbo hit a fly to short right, and Stubbs raced in and made a diving catch.
“There were a lot of things (that contributed to the win),” Francona said. “Albers (1 2/3) innings of work. There was a ton of things, because in a game like this, one play can mean the difference. It might be in the first inning and it might be in the ninth, but the one thing we did today — it wasn’t perfect, especially early — but we kept playing. And that’s the team we have to be. We can’t just show up. We’ve got to be like to bring (our) lunch pail and find a way to be better than the other team.”
In the first inning, a Josh Hamilton hit and a fielder’s choice grounder by Trumbo drove in the Angels’ first two runs, which were set up by a pair of Masterson walks.
Trumbo’s bases-loaded, two-out single up the middle made it 4-0 in the second, moments after Hank Conger and Grant Green got on base via hits on ground balls that could have been fielded by Swisher at first base and Cabrera at short, respectively.
After Cabrera was ejected and replaced by Aviles, Aviles’ throwing error helped set up an unearned run that scored on a hit by Kole Calhoun in the third.
“(Masterson) was having a real hard time,” Francona said. “We saw him out there shaking his arm and everything. He just didn’t feel like it was coming out real well today, so he kind of stuck with the two-seamers and the slider. He just said he kind of felt ‘blah.’”
“We were trying to get the whip going,” Masterson said. “And the ball was moving a whole lot, but not with the best control. And even then, it wasn’t like balls were being crushed. That’s kind of where it was. We were trying, and it wasn’t going the way we’d like it to.”
Michael Brantley doubled to lead off the Cleveland eighth and advanced to third with one out, but could not score against Michael Kohn.
Rich Hill also worked for Cleveland.
Kevin Jepsen also pitched for the Angels.
Goldman is a freelance writer from South Euclid.