But things didn’t go according to plan for Angels manager Brad Ausmus.
Tribe hitters opened up an early lead on L.A. righty Taylor Cole, scoring four times and held on for a 7-3 victory behind the pitching of Mike Clevinger in the first game of a weekend series at Progressive Field.
Cleveland’s first five hitters reached base against Cole (1-2, 3.97), including RBI singles by Carlos Santana and Yasiel Puig and an RBI double by Jose Ramirez. Cole departed after recording just one out, a strikeout of Franmil Reyes, before Jason Kipnis’ RBI grounder off lefty Dylan Peters gave the Indians (64-45) a three-run advantage.
Five Indians collected at least two hits, with Francisco Lindor logging his fifth multi-hit effort in his last seven starts, while Puig and Santana each drove in a pair of runs. Manager Terry Francona said it was nice to feel like if guys get on base, the team has a chance for a big inning.
“You’d love to string hits together, but any number of those guys is liable to hit one in the seats, which is a good feeling,” Francona said. “We’ll have our nights for sure, but it’s nice to see them grinding up there. I thought they did a good job.”
Clevinger’s lone mistake was a first-inning home run to Mike Trout on the first pitch he threw the Angels slugger. Trout tattooed the offering to the bleachers in left for his 36th homer. After a Trout two-out double in the third, Clevinger (6-2, 3.07) set down 10 of the next 11 Angels, including five on strikeouts. He allowed three hits over 6 1/3 innings with four walks and eight strikeouts.
Clevinger improved to 5-0 in his last six outings with a 1.69 ERA including nine walks and 49 strikeouts and is now 3-0 at home with a 0.92 ERA in five starts. He said the response by Cleveland’s offense in the bottom of the first helped him remain on track after the Trout homer.
“It’s all momentum-based," Clevinger said. "So picking me up like that after I give up a quick one early then coming back and putting three on the board there, it was good to see.”
Cleveland added two more runs in the second on a sacrifice fly by Santana and an RBI single through the right side by Puig that beat LA’s infield shift. Roberto Perez’s 19th home run, a solo shot in the third, pushed the Tribe lead to 7-1.
Los Angeles loaded the bases after Nick Goody relieved Clevinger with one out in the seventh, but Goody got pinch hitter Matt Thaiss to pop out to Lindor on the first pitch and struck out David Fletcher to end the inning with Trout on deck.
Adam Cimber surrendered a two-run double to Thaiss in the ninth, but retired Fletcher and Trout on back-to-back fly balls to Puig in right to end the game.
Francona decried the Tribe’s high walk total (six) and one hit batter, noting it was good that Clevinger limited L.A. to just three hits.
"That’s not the greatest recipe, but I thought Clev’s stuff was terrific and he made pitches,” Francona said. "Goody came in and did a really good job to keep that game from, where somebody could hit a ball and tie it. We were trying to stay away from that.”
The Indians remained three games behind Minnesota in the American League Central Division standings. They upped their lead in the AL wild card standings to two games ahead of Tampa Bay.
The series continues Saturday with right-hander Adam Plutko (3-2, 4.83) taking the mound for the Indians. Los Angeles will start another opener (TBD) followed by righty Felix Pena (8-3, 4.46). First pitch is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. The game will be broadcast on FS1 and WLKR 95.3 FM.
Plutko will make his first career start against the Angels. He is 0-1 with a 4.50 ERA in two career outings against AL West Division teams and 2-2 with a 4.54 ERA in six previous starts this season at Progressive Field.