Covering the Bases: Game 79

Final:

Angels 3, Indians 0

FIRST: The thing about Angels ace Jered Weaver is, well, let’s have Indians manager Manny Acta handle this one:

“Every five days he does it to somebody different,” Acta said.

It would be dominate. Weaver did it again to the Indians on Monday night, spinning seven shutout innings en route to the win, making him 9-1 with a 2.13 ERA on the season. Weaver’s ERA peaked at 3.21 on April 11. It hasn’t been higher than 2.83 since then. It’s 1.04 over his last six outings.

Cleveland has certainly seen enough of the right-hander. He’s now 5-0 with a 1.52 ERA in eight career outings at Progressive Field. Weaver has spun 13 shutout innings against the Tribe this season.

“First of all, he can locate,” Acta explained. “It’s a perfect example for people who think that you need to throw hard up here to get people out. He can locate and he off-sets the hitters’ timing very good. He can go from a 69-mph breaking ball, as you guys saw today, to a 91-mph fastball. He never gives in.

“And he has the confidence that he can get out of it making pitches. He never throws a ball right down the middle of the plate, or at least doesn’t try to. He pitches in and out the whole time. He pitches.”

All of that said, while there’s no denying that Weaver deserves the a tip of the ol’ cap for his performance tonight, Acta was not happy with the approach that his hitters took on early in the ballgame on Monday.

“I felt that we could’ve had a better approach early in the game,” Acta said. “I just felt that we were swinging at his pitches, and too early in the count a lot of times. Too many quick outs. Yeah, he was throwing strikes, but still. We were rolling over a lot and he just kept flipping offspeed stuff and we didn’t make the adjustment.”

SECOND: That brings us to the seventh inning. If you’re not a fan of horror, you might want to go ahead and skip ahead to the next topic.

In the seventh, after Weaver held the first 20 Indians batters he encoutered to two measly singles, Cleveland loaded the bases with no outs. Down 2-0 at the time, this was a prime scoring opportunity. Jason Kipnis drew a leadoff walk, Michael Brantley singled and Carlos Santana walked as well.

“That was a situation where we could try to get some runs,” Indians outfielder Johnny Damon said. “Worst case? One. Best case? As many as possible.”

What was the minimum amount of production Acta would’ve hoped for from his team?

“About three?” he replied. “The three that are on base.”

The Indians came away with zilch.

Damon chopped a pitch to third baseman Alberto Callaspo, who threw home to cut down the lead runner for the innings’s first out. Casey Kotchman followed with a flyout to catcher Bobby Wilson. Weaver then followed with a strikeout to Shelley Duncan, ending the inning.

Oof.

“This one hurts,” Damon said.

The Indians also put the first two hitters aboard in the eighth and came away empty handed. I’ll spare you the details on that disaster.

Think happy thoughts. In the previous four games, Cleveland pounded out 32 runs on 55 hits.

THIRD: The man who told us last season that he always tries “think happy” returned to the Indians lineup for Monday’s game. Catcher Carlos Santana went 1-for-3 with a single and a walk at the plate, and showed no ill effects from the back/right side issue that kept him out the past four games.

Santana’s presence was felt most from behind the plate, though.

Beyond handling another stellar outing from Ubaldo Jimenez, Santana helped cut down some of the traffic on the basepaths.

“They’re like rabbits,” Jimenez said of L.A.’s players. “Once they got on the base, they’re going to be running.”

In the first inning, Erick Aybar singled and was then thrown out trying to steal second base. Albert Pujols was thrown out after over-running second base on a wild pitch in the sixth. In the seventh, Santana threw out Alberto Callaspo on a stolen-base attempt. L.A. did have two successful steals.

“We didn’t score any runs,” Acta said, “but he really stopped some baserunners that could’ve made things even worse for us.”

Santana takes pride in that aspect of his game.

“I’m struggling right now [at the plate],” Santana said before Monday’s game, “but I know I can still do a good job behind the plate calling pitches and throwing runners out.”

HOME: The unfortunate aspect of this loss was that Jimenez’s continued success gets pushed to the background. He was hung with a hard-luck loss, but The Big U continued to pitch well for the Indians, adding to the recent string of strong starts.

Jimenez held the Angels to three runs on eight hits in 7 2/3 innings. He struck out four and walked four, though two of those free passes were intentional. Over his past six outings, Ubaldo has posted a 2.93 ERA (13 ER/40 IP), but only has a 2-3 record to show for his effort.

In that stretch, he’s piled up 36 strikeouts against 15 walks with 33 hits allowed.

It’s the first time since June 24-July 19, 2011 — not too far before he was traded from Colorado to Cleveland — that Jimenez has logged at least 40 innings over six starts. During that stretch, he went 4-1 with a 2.70 ERA, 41 strikeouts, 12 walks and 32 hits allowed.

“I think everybody would take a guy that every five days is going to give you a chance to win,” Acta said. “That’s what he’s done here the last six outings. He’s pitching like a No. 2 or No. 1 guy right now.”

On deck:

Angels (45-35) at Indians (40-39)
at 7:05 p.m. ET Tuesday at Progressive Field

–JB

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