CLEVELAND — Beating up on the weaklings in the Central Division is one thing. Doing the same to the second-best team in the majors is quite another.
The Indians discovered as much Tuesday night at Progressive Field, dropping a 5-4 decision in the opener of a three-game series against the Los Angeles Angels, who entered the night trailing the Yankees by three games for the best record in the big leagues.
The Indians, who have taken four straight series from the top three teams in the Central — Detroit, Chicago and Minnesota — were not outclassed, just outscored by a superior offense that led the majors with a .291 batting average through Monday. Of the Angels nine starters, eight of them came into the game hitting .300 or better.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen that, especially at this time of year,” said Indians manager Eric Wedge, whose team lost for the first time after winning the last two games at Minnesota to take the three-game series from the Twins.
By the end of the game, all nine Angels were at .300 or better.
After offering up three positive outings since being recalled from Triple-A Columbus, Indians starter Fausto Carmona took a step back in his fourth.
Carmona, who didn’t allow more than two runs in his three previous starts, surrendered five through the first three innings. Two of the runs were unearned courtesy of Andy Marte’s error at first during the Angels’ two-run second.
Carmona lasted just five innings, allowing the five runs on 10 hits and two walks, while striking out four.
“I thought he was a little bit off tonight,” Wedge said. “He had a lot of deep counts. Obviously, he threw a lot of pitches (110) through five innings.
“He didn’t give into it, but he just didn’t have the same command he’s had in his previous outings.”
The Indians had their chances against Angels starter Trevor Bell, who allowed nine hits over the first three innings, but just three runs over the span.
Down 5-1 in the third, Cleveland scored twice and had the bases full with one out in the third, yet failed to add more when Travis Hafner swung through a 3-2 pitch in the dirt that would have forced in a run, and the following batter, Luis Valbuena, popped out to Bell in foul territory.
In just his second big league appearance, Bell got his first career victory, lasting 5 1/3 innings and surrendering three runs on nine hits.
“We did get back in it, but we had multiple opportunities to tie it or take the lead and just didn’t come through,” Wedge said.
Hafner, who has been sagging at the plate of late, was the culprit with the bases loaded again in the seventh, bouncing into an inning-ending double play after Cleveland had pulled within 5-4.
“He’s one of those guys you want up there in that situation,” Wedge said. “He just didn’t have a good night.”
“I came up with two big at-bats and just didn’t get the job done,” Hafner said. “I have to throw up better at-bats up there. The big thing for me has always been plate discipline. I’m swinging at too many bad pitches.”
A positive effort from the bullpen kept Cleveland in the game. Three relievers — Jensen Lewis, Rafael Perez and Jess Todd — shut out Los Angeles on three hits over the final four innings.
The Indians got much of their offense from the top of the order, with three of their first four hitters — Grady Sizemore, Asdrubal Cabrera and Shin-Soo Choo — accounting for eight of their 12 hits.
Sizemore reached base four times in five official at-bats, while Cabrera went 4-for-5, extending his hitting streak to a career-high 12 games. Choo reached base in three of his five trips to the plate.
Fifth hitter Jhonny Peralta also chipped in, collecting two hits and driving in a pair of runs.
The Indians are without a home run in their last seven games at Progressive Field, matching their longest drought since 1991 at Municipal Stadium.
- Who: Cleveland vs. L.A. Angels
- Time: 7:05
- Where: Progressive Field
- Pitchers: Sowers (4-8, 4.88 ERA) vs. Weaver (12-4, 4.12)
- TV/radio: SportsTime Ohio; WEOL 930-AM, WTAM 1100-AM
Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7136 or firstname.lastname@example.org.