October 26, 2014

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Indians 6, Angels 2: Garko’s homer lifts Tribe to series split

 

ANAHEIM, Calif. — It isn’t enough that the Los Angeles Angels’ pitchers might have to deal with Travis Hafner and Victor Martinez again should they face Cleveland in the postseason. Now, Ryan Garko has given them something extra to think about.

 

Garko hit a three-run homer, Aaron Laffey pitched out of trouble for his third win in six big league starts, and the Indians beat Los Angeles 6-2 Sunday night to split a four-game series between AL division leaders after the Angels took the first two.

 

“I’m not going to lie. It was pretty big,” Garko said. “ Detroit came out here last month and they got swept — and we know how good Detroit is. So after those first two games, I think there might have been a little bit of worry that it might happen to us. But then C.C. (Sabathia) shut them down last night, and Aaron did a great job tonight in a tough environment.”

 

Cleveland ’s 13th victory in 16 tries increased its AL Central lead to six games over the Tigers. The Angels have an eight-game cushion over Seattle in the AL West.

 

Laffey (3-1) pitched five innings, allowing two runs and six hits while striking out three. One of the runs against the left-hander was unearned, the result of a throwing error by shortstop Jhonny Peralta.

 

“I was in a couple of jams and was able to get out of it,” Laffey said. “The sinker made the difference tonight. I was able to get them to put the ball in play and get outs. I had my slider working for me a little bit and got a couple of strikeouts. Then when Ryan hit that home run to put us ahead, it really gave me confidence.”

 

Jensen Lewis, Rafael Perez and Joe Borowski combined for four scoreless innings of three-hit relief against an Angels lineup that played the entire series without slugger Vladimir Guerrero because of inflammation in his right triceps.

 

“They’ve got a good ballclub over there, but we’ve got a good ballclub in here, too,” Angels outfielder Reggie Willits said. “I think we can match up with anybody. But anytime you take one of the best players in the game away from the lineup, it’s not quite the same.”

 

Jered Weaver (11-7) threw 97 pitches over five innings, allowing six runs and nine hits — all in a span of 13 batters.

Mike Napoli made his first start behind the plate for the Angels since July 27, when he strained his right hamstring on a steal of second base. The Indians tested him the first two times they put a runner on.

 

Napoli threw out Franklin Gutierrez trying to steal second in the third inning — but Grady Sizemore stole his 31st base in the fourth to trigger a five-run rally that put Cleveland ahead 5-2.

 

“They’ve got a deep offensive lineup,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “They score runs in a lot of different ways — and not just by hitting home runs. They’re not going to pressure you with stolen bases as much as some other clubs, but they’ve got the ability to have that be part of their game.”

 

Sizemore scored on Asdrubal Cabrera’s single off the glove of first baseman Casey Kotchman. Martinez singled and Garko drove the next pitch over the double-decker bullpen in left field for his 17th homer and second of the series, including Friday night’s tying shot off closer Francisco Rodriguez.

 

“I don’t get a chance to play in front of my parents much, so it was special,” Garko said. “I got a few big hits and they were here to see it, but the best part was winning these last two games.”

 

Garko is batting .292 with 55 RBIs and a .475 slugging percentage in 121 games, including 105 starts at first base.

“Initially, we didn’t know how it was going to play out with Ryan in terms of playing time, because we thought Casey Blake was going to play more first base,” manager Eric Wedge said. “It was just a matter of working Ryan in against a lefty here or an occasional right-hander there. But the way it played out, Casey ended up playing more third base after Andy (Marte) got hurt. Then Garko just really took off at first base.”

 

Peralta followed Garko’s homer with a double and scored on a two-out single by Gutierrez. The Indians tacked on another run in the fifth with doubles by Sizemore and Cabrera. 


Napoli made it 2-0 in the second with a sacrifice fly, but grounded into an inning-ending double play in the fourth with runners at the corners. He also struck out with two on in the sixth.

Notable

Angels right-handed pitcher Bartolo Colon, a former Indian, was activated from the disabled list, but his next start hasn’t been determined. The 2005 AL Cy Young Award winner last pitched on July 23, when he came out after one inning because of irritation in his elbow.

Unless these teams meet in the postseason, the Angels will go an entire year without playing a game in Cleveland for the first time in their 47-year history. They lost two of three to the Indians at Milwaukee from April 10-12, a series that was relocated after an entire four-game set between the Indians and Seattle was snowed out.

•  Martinez , who leads Cleveland with 101 RBIs, drove in only one run during the series. The Angels walked him intentionally three times in his 18 plate appearances.