December 18, 2014

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Indians sweep Angels for win No. 69 — one more than they had last year

Cleveland's Nick Swisher watches his two-run home run in the third inning versus the L.A. Angles on Wednesday. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Cleveland’s Nick Swisher watches his two-run home run in the third inning versus the L.A. Angles on Wednesday. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

ANAHEIM, Calif. — After losing two out of three to the Angels at Progressive Field, prospects for the Indians’ success in Anaheim didn’t look good.

But look again. The Indians defeated the Angels 3-1 on Wednesday night to sweep the three-game series and push their win total to 69, one more than all of last season.

What’s more, there are 35 games left, so you can be sure the Indians will be entering foreign territory — foreign territory as in the French Riviera, not foreign territory as in the Gobi desert.

Mostly, Justin Masterson made it happen Wednesday. He kept manager Terry Francona on the edge of his seat by walking five, but he never really was in much danger.

“It wasn’t easy,” Francona said. “You look up in the fourth inning and he has more balls than strikes. But he kind of bobbed and weaved. And at the end of the day he gave up one run.”

It probably had something to do with Tuesday night’s 14-inning, five-hour, 17-minute marathon, but there didn’t seem to be a lot of energy on the field.

On the other hand, Francona felt his club was determined not to let weariness get the better of them.

“Today was an easy day not to show up,” he said. “But we grinded our way through it. Everybody is tired, probably on both teams. We need to win games like this.”

As in the previous night, there wasn’t much offense to talk about. Maybe the pitching was that good, maybe it was fatigued hitters.

Regardless, Masterson (14-9, 3.50 ERA) and Jerome Williams put on a pitching clinic.

Masterson came out of the game after 6⅔ innings, having allowed just one run and five hits, striking out seven. His problem was running up his pitch count because of the walks, or he probably would have lasted through the eighth.

“It feels nice to be disappointed to go 6⅔,” he said. “You try to get as deep as you can in games.”

He certainly wasn’t in danger of being driven from the mound by the Angels’ attackers, who throughout the series struggled to put consecutive hits together. They did it twice — once in the series opener and once Tuesday night.

Not that the Indians got ahead of the curve in this department. Four times, Indians’ batters reached consecutively on hits, but on two occasions they delivered three hits in a row.

The Angels scored only four runs in the three-game set and repeatedly failed to advance runners from third with less than two out.

They got their run off Masterson in the sixth, when Josh Hamilton led off with a single and scored on Hank Conger’s one-out double. Masterson stopped the rally there.

Williams (5-10, 4.80 ERA) faced the Indians on Aug. 11 in Cleveland and gave up four runs in 5⅔ innings. That was then.

On Wednesday, Williams’ only meaningful mistake was giving up a two-run homer to Nick Swisher in the third inning. Michael Bourn led off with a triple, and Swisher drove a ball over the wall in right to give the Indians a 2-0 lead.

“We’ll take runs any way we can get them,” Francona said, “but there are times when you need somebody to hit a home run.”

The Indians had other chances early against Williams, who gave up a leadoff single to Bourn and a two-out double to Carlos Santana in the first, but extricated himself from trouble. In the second, Jason Giambi led off with a double, but again Williams dug in his heels and kept a run from scoring.

After the Swisher homer, Williams retired 12 of the next 13 batters to get through the sixth. Altogether, he threw 6⅓ innings and allowed six hits and two walks, striking out six.

Maybe one thing Indians relievers should do is induce the players union to negotiate overtime pay. Over the course of the Indians’ nine-game trip to Minnesota, Oakland and Anaheim, the bullpen worked 29 innings and gave up four earned runs.

“The bullpen worked really hard (Tuesday),” Masterson said, “but they came in and did a good job again.”

Chris Perez earned his 20th save, striking out two and giving up a hit in the ninth.
Cody Allen struck out the side in the eighth, also giving up a hit, and Rich Hill retired the only batter he faced, with runners on first and third and two out in the seventh.

The Indians finished its West Coast trip against the Twins, Athletics and Angels with a 6-3 record and remain 5½ games behind the Tigers, who lead the Central Division race.