Sheldon Ocker

CLEVELAND: Baseball doesn’t always follow the form sheet, but the Indians clearly beat the odds when they eluded a loss to Jered Weaver on Friday night. It was unlikely they were going to hit the daily double by getting the best of Dan Haren, too.

Weaver was not the losing pitcher in the Tribe’s 3-2 win in the series opener against the Angels, but Haren forced his will upon the Wahoos, as he spearheaded Saturday’s 2-1 win at Progressive Field.

“It was a very well-pitched ballgame by both sides,” Indians manager Manny Acta said. “Jeanmar [Gomez] pitched ahead the whole day and threw that slider for strikes whenever he wanted.

“Unfortunately, we couldn’t execute against Dan Haren. He’s a guy that if you don’t get to early will be very tough. We’ve struggled against him for a long time.”

Haren threw a one-hitter against the Tribe last year; for his career he is 4-2 with a 3.31 earned-run average in 11 starts against Cleveland.

It took awhile for Gomez to get going. Because he was No. 5 in the rotation, he pitched two innings out of the bullpen before his first start, which ended with an ejection after two innings because he hit Mike Moustakas in Kansas City. A five-game suspension followed that outing, so Gomez didn’t stay on the mound for any length of time until April 21, when he pitched 5? innings against the Athletics.

That’s as long as he had pitched since spring training. At least, Gomez is well rested. Apparently, there’s nothing wrong with that, because he delivered six strong innings against the Angels, allowing two runs and five hits in six innings. He walked only two and struck out seven, throwing 100 pitches, 64 strikes.

In three starts, Gomez has given up four runs, nine hits and three walks in 13 innings, as he has continued the surge he began in spring training, when he was fighting for a starting job, with Kevin Slowey as his primary competitor.

Gomez has come long way in a relatively short time. For the past two years, he has shuttled back and forth from Columbus, making emergency starts in doubleheaders. At times, he would get to stick around a while as a part-time starter, but this is the first year he has broken with the team from spring training.

“We were high on Gomez two years ago,” Acta said. “His development depended on his secondary pitches, and his slider has really come around. We saw that in spring training and today, when guys were taking bad swings at it.”

In three starts, Gomez has given up four runs, nine hits and three walks in 13 innings, as he has continued the surge he began in spring training, when he was fighting for a starting job, with Kevin Slowey as his primary competitor.

Gomez said the slider was a key pitch for him Saturday.

“I went with it against right-handers and left-handers,” he said. “I thought I could throw it for a strike no matter what the count was.”

The game was delayed two hours and 27 minutes by rain before the first pitch, but that didn’t bother Gomez’s routine or his rhythm.

“That didn’t matter, because I didn’t throw any pitches before [showers began],” he said “I was in the clubhouse listening to music.”

The Angels’ offensive pattern was virtually identical to Friday night, when they scored one run in the first inning, this time on a walk to Howard Kendrick plus singles by Albert Pujols and Kendrys Morales. As he did the previous evening, Torii Hunter hit a solo homer in the fourth inning.

“Hunter hit a back-door sinker,” Gomez said. “And last night against [Justin] Masterson he hit a back-door sinker.”

Angels manager Mike Scioscia rode Haren as long as he could, being mindful of the way his bullpen trashed a 2-0 lead on Friday night, after Weaver had pitched six scoreless innings. Haren gave his manager eight strong innings, allowing four hits and two walks, while striking out seven.

“You have to hand it to these guys we’ve been seeing,” Acta said. “To be the best, you have to beat the best. You can’t just be beating No. 4s and No. 5s. But this is how you prepare for the next step.”

The Indians had few legitimate opportunities against Haren and took minimal advantage of the ones they did receive.

For example, in the first inning, Michael Brantley led off with a double, but Haren easily retired Jason Kipnis, Adrubal Cabrera and Travis Hafner without allowing Brantley to score.

The only other serious threat to Haren came in the fourth, when the Tribe scored its run. Kipnis led off with a single and moved to second on a walk to Cabrera. Travis Hafner lined deep to left and Santana struck out, but Jack Hannahan singled to drive in Kipnis.

Today’s finale will determine whether the Indians break even on their six-game homestand or wallow in a 2-4 record.

Sheldon Ocker can be reached at socker@thebeaconjournal.com. Read the Indians blog at https://ohio.com/indians. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SheldonOckerABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.