CLEVELAND — Derek Lowe was not in a giving mood Sunday at Progressive Field, but the Los Angeles Angels sure were.
With help from two Angels errors — a glaring one on Gold Glove outfielder Torii Hunter — and a brilliant outing from Lowe, the Indians were able to wrap up the series, shutting out Los Angeles, 4-0.
A pitchers’ duel between Lowe and Angels starter Ervin Santana was interrupted when Hunter dropped a routine fly ball from Asdrubal Cabrera in right field that plated two runs to break a scoreless tie in the fifth inning.
The game-changing gaffe came from one of the best outfielders in the business in Hunter, who appeared to lose the ball in the sun.
“I wasn’t shocked. I was happy,” said manager Manny Acta, whose team reclaimed in sole possession of first place in the Central Division. “It’s a very tough sky. He’s a Gold Glover, but the mighty sun was on our side. Today, we got a break. Everybody needs a break every once in a while.”
Hunter, 36, entered the game with just 35 errors in 4,520 total chances — the fewest in major league history by an outfielder with at least 4,500 chances.
“I lost that game,” Hunter said. “I feel bad. Santana pitched his butt off. “I get a ball in the sun and they score two runs. You can’t beat the sun. I’ve been playing this game for a long time. It seems like the sun wins. Whenever you lose a ball in the sun, you can’t defeat God’s light.”
The Angels gift-wrapped a run for the Indians with another error in the eighth inning, but it would have been tough to defeat Cleveland regardless with Lowe on the mound.
The veteran right-hander was masterful, allowing just three hits over 7 2/3 innings to improve to 4-1 with a 2.27 ERA in five starts this season. A picture of efficiency, Lowe retired 13 straight after walking Maicer Izturis with one out in the third and allowed just one hit over the first six innings.
“Lowe was outstanding,” Acta said. “He had great command of that sinker and also had a good slider. They couldn’t do anything but beat the ball into the ground. That’s a good hitting ballclub. He was cruising. He just made pitches all day long.”
But not long enough for Lowe’s liking. He ran into trouble in the eighth inning and was relieved by Vinnie Pestano, bringing an end to his complete-game bid.
“It was a little disappointing in the eighth inning, because it was a game that I felt like I could go the distance, and that doesn’t happen very often,” said Lowe, who had thrown just 66 pitches through six innings. “It was looking like I was actually going to do something pretty cool right there, but I stubbed my toe.”
Pestano offered up another big relief effort, coming on for Lowe with runners on second and third and two outs. The right-hander walked the first batter he faced before striking out Howie Kendrick to end the threat.
Pestano, who has not allowed any of his eight inherited runners to score this season, has at least one strikeout in each of his 11 appearances — 14 in 9 2/3 innings overall.
“I kind of got that reputation last year as a strikeout pitcher,” Pestano said. “When I come into the game, that’s what I’m trying to do.”
It was Santana’s first start against the Indians since no-hitting them at Progressive Field, July 27 of last year. His repeat bid ended early after Santana allowed hits to the first two batters he faced — Michael Brantley and Jason Kipnis.
“I was aware of it. We all were aware of it,” Brantley said of Santana facing the Indians for the first time since the no-hitter. “I was part of it. It was nice to get a couple hits early and get things going.”
Though they broke even on the six-game homestand, the Indians finished strong, winning two of three from the Angels, who employed top-shelf starting pitchers Jered Weaver, Dan Haren and Santana.
“It was a very good series,” Acta said. “Anytime you can take two of three from a pitching staff like that the way we we’ve been swinging the bat, it’s great.”
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