JOE RESNICK,Associated Press
ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Terry Francona has been an extremely good fit for the Indians. His players seem to feel the same way, considering the way they’ve been contending for a postseason berth.
Justin Masterson pitched effectively into the seventh inning, Nick Swisher hit a two-run homer and Cleveland completed a three-game sweep of the Los Angeles Angels with a 3-1 victory Wednesday.
“We’ve got guys in here that want to be in the playoffs, and we’re working our butts off to try and get there,” Swisher said.
The Indians, who began the day 5 1/2 games behind first-place Detroit in the AL Central and 3 1/2 behind Oakland in the race for the second wild card spot, improved to 69-58 and surpassed last season’s win total with 35 games to spare.
“I’m enjoying myself,” said Francona, who guided the Boston Red Sox to a pair of World Series titles. “I thought this was the right place — I knew it was — and it’s been everything I hoped it would be. I love the people I work with. I’m enjoying this team and trying to see if we can get better together. It’s been fun.”
Masterson (14-9) allowed a run and five hits over 6 2-3 innings, tied a season high with five walks and struck out seven just 10 days after giving up five runs over 4 1-3 innings against the Angels at Cleveland in his shortest outing of the season. The right-hander, who made his big league debut against the Angels in April 2008, is 4-0 with a 1.87 ERA in nine career starts against them.
“It wasn’t easy. I mean, you look up in the fourth inning and I think Justin had more balls than strikes,” Francona said. “But he had good movement and he kind of bobbed and weaved through their lineup. He only had probably one inning where he really cruised.”
The Angels put the potential tying and go-ahead runs in scoring position in the seventh before Masterson fanned Erick Aybar with his 110th and final pitch for the second out. Rich Hill came on and retired Josh Hamilton with a tremendous assist from third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall, who robbed the Angels’ slugger of a hit with a diving stop in the hole and threw him out.
“I feel a little disappointed that I only went 6 2-3 innings, because the goal is to get as deep as I can,” Masterson said. “I had some good movement early in the game, got a lot of ground balls and got some great defensive plays behind me.”
The Indians got an insurance run in the ninth when Mike Aviles scored on Dane De La Rosa’s second wild pitch of the inning.
Cody Allen pitched a scoreless eighth for Cleveland and Chris Perez got three outs for his 20th save in 24 attempts. The Indians’ bullpen had a 1.29 ERA and stranded 24 of 25 inherited baserunners during the team’s 6-3 road trip.
Jerome Williams (5-10) yielded two runs and six hits in 6 1-3 innings with six strikeouts and two walks. The right-hander is 0-8 with a 6.79 ERA over his last 12 starts and his only victory at home this season came in a 12-0 rout of Seattle on May 21.
“Everybody was tired today, and it would have been an easy day to just show up,” said Francona, who used nine pitchers in Tuesday night’s 14-inning win. “We need to get wins like this.”
The Angels scored in the sixth when Hamilton led off with a single and came all the way around on Hank Conger’s one-out double into the right field corner. Los Angeles put runners at the corners in the second and fourth innings, but Masterson escaped the first jam with a strikeout of Peter Bourjos and the second on a flyball by Andrew Romine.
“His ball was moving pretty well and was obviously sinking,” Bourjos said. “We had some opportunities to blow the game open early, but we didn’t take advantage of it.”
NOTES: Romine started at 2B for Angels for the first time this season in place of Howie Kendrick, who has missed 15 games because of a hyperextended left knee. … Indians DH Jason Giambi doubled in the second inning, putting him within two hits of 2,000. … Masterson, who became a full-time starter in 2010, reached the 1,000-inning mark for his career when he fielded Bourjos’ leadoff bunt in the fifth and threw him out. Bourjos had a bunt single in the seventh, ending an 0-for-21 drought. … … The Indians are 42-39 since May 23, the last time they led their division. … Cleveland LF Michael Brantley, who broke Rocky Colavito’s franchise record of 212 consecutive errorless games by an outfielder in Monday’s series opener, has committed only six errors since beginning his big league career in 2009. … Swisher has two hits in nine career at-bats against Williams, both of them homers.
(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)