July 22, 2014

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Angels 7, Indians 6: Tribe comes up just short

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Mike Scioscia almost has more pitching problems than one manager can handle. If it’s not Jered Weaver struggling through another start for the Los Angeles Angels, it’s closer Brian Fuentes’ sudden inability to get anybody out.

Yet the Angels’ lineup still has a remarkable knack for the comeback — and reliever Jason Bulger barely managed to do what Fuentes couldn’t.

Gary Matthews Jr. hit a tiebreaking three-run double in the eighth inning, and the Angels survived another meltdown by their All-Star closer for their major league-leading 33rd come-from-behind victory, 7-6 over the Cleveland Indians on Tuesday night.

Juan Rivera’s RBI single tied it earlier in the eighth for the Angels, whose latest remarkable rally made up for another poor performance by another starter and the usually formidable Fuentes. Scioscia finally found a stopper in Bulger, a 30-year-old right-hander in his first full big league season.

Entering the game with the bases loaded and nobody out after Fuentes’ second straight flop, Bulger induced a double-play grounder by Victor Martinez, even covering first for the relay throw. He then stranded Cleveland’s tying run on third base with another grounder for his first career save.

“The last thing (Scioscia) told me when he left the mound was to be sure to cover first base on a ground ball,” Bulger said. “The whole thing is a blur. I’m just ecstatic that we came back and won. We do it when it counts.”

Fuentes, the major league leader with 30 saves, fell apart for the second straight night, yielding two runs and failing to close out the scrappy Indians, whose five-game winning streak ended.

“We had the guy we wanted up there in that situation with the bases loaded, but they turned a hell of a double play,” Cleveland manager Eric Wedge said. “Then Jhonny hit the ball right on the nose, but right at the shortstop. But we had great at-bats prior to that and made them work for it. We just came up short.”

After giving up two homers and four runs while blowing a save in Monday’s loss, Fuentes gave up two walks and two hits without getting an out. He was heartily booed by the home crowd.

“(Fuentes) is getting a little bit tired,” Scioscia said. “The ball’s not coming out like it normally does. … He’ll right his ship and get it back together. It just didn’t look like he was comfortable out there.”

Matt Palmer (9-1) pitched two solid innings in relief of struggling starter Jered Weaver for the Angels, who have won 13 of 16 despite losing their previous two — just Los Angeles’ second set of back-to-back losses in July. Texas has won eight of nine to close within 2½ games of the Angels atop the AL West standings.

Jhonny Peralta homered and drove in two runs before making the final out, while Ben Francisco also homered as the Indians lost for just the second time in eight games on a remarkable road trip that concludes today.

Wedge didn’t second-guess his decision to leave starter David Huff (5-5) in the game to start the eighth. The Angels’ first two hitters reached base before reliever Joe Smith gave up Rivera’s RBI single, and Matthews Jr. capped the comeback with a two-out drive to left-center off Tony Sipp.

“Some games you’ve got to bear down a little more, and tonight was one of those situations,” Sipp said. “I left a ball across the middle and walked two guys and put myself in a situation for failure.”

Matthews is reveling in his first regular playing time of the season, starting 17 straight games in center field since Torii Hunter’s injury.

“We’re comfortable playing from behind,” Matthews said. “We’re able to manufacture runs. We’re not de-pendent on homers. This stadium isn’t really conducive to home run hitters, and I think they’ve built the team accordingly.”

Weaver was the latest Angels starter to struggle, barely surviving five innings while giving up eight hits. He is winless in his last three starts after going 7-1 in his previous nine, and the right-hander has allowed at least three runs in eight consecutive outings.

Notable

1B Andy Marte went 2-for-3 in his first game back with the Indians, who recalled him from the minors after trading Ryan Garko to San Francisco. … The home team wore the softball-style 1980 throwback California Angels uniforms on ‘80s Night. … Sean O’Sullivan, who has bounced from the minors to the Angels’ roster this season, pitched a no-hitter for Triple-A Salt Lake.

Today

  • Who: Cleveland at Los Angeles Angels
  • Time: 3:35 p.m.
  • Where: Angel Stadium of Anaheim (Calif.)
  • Pitchers: Laffey (4-2, 3.71 ERA) vs. Lackey (6-4, 4.22)
  • TV/radio: SportsTime Ohio; WEOL 930-AM, WTAM 1100-AM