For the second consecutive night Joe Smith found himself with an opportunity to thumb his nose at his former team.
After the Indians former setup man recorded his first save as the new Los Angeles Angels closer in the series opener Monday, he made it 2-for-2 on Tuesday. Smith made the host’s two-run advantage in the ninth stand, securing a 6-4 victory that sent his former teammates to their fifth consecutive defeat.
It was a lengthy game that featured a little bit of everything: a combined 12 pitchers, 22 hits and 12 walks. Throw in an error, a home run and a balk for good measure.
And while we’re at it, why not mix in two replay challenges on inning-ending double plays (the Angels won theirs in the fifth, the Indians lost theirs in the eighth)?
But the one part of the game that might have hurt the Indians the most is the injury suffered by second baseman Jason Kipnis. At the plate in the fourth inning, Kipnis strained a right abdominal muscle on a swing that resulted in a double play. He promptly left the game and was replaced by Mike Aviles.
Afterward, Kipnis said he felt like he’d “been shot in the back” and had the wind knocked out of him and “couldn’t breath while running to first base.”
“It’s a little too early to tell,” he said of the long-term prognosis. “(It’s) mild, though, I believe. I treated it and we’ll see how we wake up (Wednesday) morning and see how it feels. Hopefully it’s nothing too long, no need for a DL. That’s obviously the optimistic view, but we’ll see how it feels.”
The Indians and Angels wrap up the three-game series with a 4:05 p.m. game at Angel Stadium on Wednesday, with the Tribe trying to keep from being swept on the entire West Coast road swing that began with three games Friday in San Francisco.
Unlike the efficient start in his previous outing, Indians starter Corey Kluber had to tip-toe around harm throughout his 4 2/3 innings Tuesday, doing his best to pitch around Angels leadoff men making their way aboard safely via hit or error in every inning he pitched.
Kluber managed to limit all the early traffic to just two players crossing home plate through the first four innings, with the Angels scoring a run in the second and fourth innings. But the Indians right-hander finally ran out of luck in a lengthy fifth inning as the Angels tacked on two more runs to push their lead to 4-0.
“He had to work so hard,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “You could tell they knew he was going to work ahead and they were really hacking. I think their leadoff hitter got on in the first six innings and in four of the first six innings, their first two guys got on base.”
In the second, Kluber gave up three consecutive singles to start the inning, with Chris Ianetta’s putting the Angels on the board. But Kluber escaped futher harm by retiring the next three batters, including back-to-back strikeouts of J.B. Shuck and Collin Cowgill.
In the next inning, he worked around a pair of walks, rebounding to strike out David Freese and Erick Aybar to end the threat.
But an Indians fielding error in the fourth inning helped the Angels push their lead to two unanswered runs. Just like Nick Swisher’s costly error Monday, shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera’s fielding miscue on the first batter of the inning opened the door for the host. Shuck snapped an 0-for-22 skid with a single that put runners at the corners for Cahill, who responded with a run-scoring single to center.
But Kluber continued his escape artist imitation. Later in the inning, with two on and one out, he was signaled to intentionally walk Mike Trout to load the bases for Albert Pujols — the newest member of the 500-home run club.
But after a heart-stopping scare when Pujols blasted a ball far down the left field line that hooked foul, Kluber got him to pop up in front of the mound. He then escaped the jam by striking out Raul Ibanez when the veteran went too far on a check swing, keeping the deficit at two runs.
But Kluber’s outing came to an end in the next inning after the Angles opened the fifth with back-to-back singles. Kluber appeared to do his Houdini act one more time when he got the inning-ending double play the Indians had set up for. But Angels manager Mike Scioscia challenged the call and won, with replays clearly showing Shuck was safe at first base for a fielder’s choice.
Even with how costly the play was, Kluber was honest when asked his opinion on the matter.
“Naw, I think that was one of those ones (instances) where you can tell pretty blatantly that (he was safe),” Kluber said. “Live speed, I thought he was safe.”
Tribe players were called back out to the field and with Angels on the corners, Kluber issued a walk to Cowgill, once again loading the bases. Howie Kendrick followed with a two-run single that ended Kluber’s night.
“He wiggled out of the majority of it by making some real good pitches,” Francona said. “(But) after the potential double play gets overturned, the walk and the base hit ended up costing him two more runs. That really hurt. He battled so hard. They were all stressful innings. I keep track of the pitch count and I always put an asterisk when a guy works hard in an inning. It was pretty much every inning (for Kluber).”
But instead of the Indians going quietly, Carlos Santana showed his two hits the previous night were no fluke. Manning first base with Swisher getting the day off, Santana went 2-for-4 with a team-high three RBI — including launching a two-run home run that chopped the Angels lead in half at 4-2.
The homer was Santana’s second in as many days.
“When Carlos gets hot, he won’t just hit singles,” Francona said. “When he gets hot, he’ll do some damage — and that will be really welcomed.”
Michael Brantley followed Santana’s homer with a double to left that snapped his own 0-for-17 skid and Cabrera added a single that chased Angels starter Jared Weaver from the game with one out before reliever Michael Kohn came and quelled the threat.
Weaver (2-2) picked up the win, limiting the Tribe to two runs while scattering eight hits and striking out six over 5 1/3 innings. Kluber took the loss, dropping to 2-3.
But the Indians made it interesting late, getting to the Angels bullpen in the seventh to pull within a run. Santana drew a bases-loaded walk and Brantley hit a sacrifice fly that made the score 5-4. Although they had another rally brewing in the following inning, Michael Bourn hit into an inning-ending double play that Francona challenged but didn’t win.
Unlike Kluber, who had a closer view of the potential turning point of the game, Francona believed the speedy Bourn beat the throw.
“I thought he was safe,” he said, “I really did.”
However, Francona admitted he wasn’t surprised the call stood.
“It seems like at this point that if it’s close, they don’t overturn it,” he said. “We’ve seen that a couple of times now.”
With the Indians final rally short-circuited, the Angels added an eight-inning insurance run against reliever Bryan Shaw to give Smith a two-run cushion with which to work. But the side-armer didn’t need it, promptly retiring Lonnie Chisenhall, pinch hitter Swisher and Santana to end the marathon three-hour and 36-minute game.
Stephanie Storm can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Indians blog at www.ohio.com/indians. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/SStormABJ and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/abj.sports.