Baseball / Sports

Angels sweep out the Indians

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- It only took 393 days, but the Angels are back over .500.

A 7-1 win over the Cleveland Indians in a Wednesday matinee at Angel Stadium secured a series sweep and gave the club more momentum than at any point in recent memory � or not-so-recent memory. The Angels (14-13) hadn't been over .500 since the second day of the 2013 season, when they were 1-0.

"It's where we want to be, for sure," center fielder Mike Trout said. "We're having some fun right now."

Said catcher Hank Conger, who slammed a two-run homer: "It's obviously not exactly where we want to be, but it's an encouraging sign."

Considering the Angels couldn't amass double-digit wins in either of the last two Aprils, the mark to conclude the month is worth celebrating, especially when you factor in injuries to outfielders Josh Hamilton and Kole Calhoun.

"There was so much focus on us getting off to a good start," Manager Mike Scioscia said. "We haven't necessarily gotten off to a good start, but we have played better baseball this month than in the last couple opening months. We're scoring enough to give ourselves a chance, and that's what's kept our head above water here."

The Angels scored plenty for starter C.J. Wilson, the major league leader in run support. After Conger's homer opened the scoring in the second, they added a run in third and two more in both the fifth and sixth.

Albert Pujols and Mike Trout each doubled, with Trout's off-the-wall smash bringing in two runs. Third baseman David Freese, heating up of late, added a two-run single and a walk.

Wilson was in control throughout, allowing only three base runners in eight innings of one-run ball. He struck out eight, retired 18 consecutive Indians to conclude his day and earned his fourth win.

Wilson is all about extremes. On top of the seven runs of support he has gotten per start, he also leads the majors with an average of 113 pitches per outing. He threw 117 Wednesday and still told Scioscia he wanted to pitch the ninth.

Left fielder J.B. Shuck, honored as the Angels' 2013 defensive player of the year before the game, made a diving play in the sixth inning to take away a sure double.

SMITH ENJOYING NINTH INNING ROLE

Joe Smith is a closer now, for the first time in his eight-year major league career.

And now the eighth-inning veteran understands why so much has been made of the ninth inning.

"It's more fun," Smith said Wednesday, grinning. "I don't know how to explain it, but it is different. If you don't hold the lead, you lose. But if you're used to pitching in those situations in the game where you're coming in in the seventh inning, it's not necessarily all that different."

Smith has said he will happily cede the closer's role back to Ernesto Frieri if and when the hard-thrower turns his season around. Until then, though, he's happy to handle the ninth for the first extended stretch of his career.

But he does believe teams don't necessarily need a hard-and-fast closer. Mixing and matching can work in the right situation.

"I know some guys that do that, actually," Smith said, citing Cleveland manager Terry Francona using right-hander Cody Allen as a flex guy to handle the seventh, eighth or ninth on a given night. "That's just my opinion, but it's not a bad strategy because sometimes games can be won or lost in the seventh inning."

Smith said he understands managers' desire to have defined roles in bullpens. He expects the Angels relievers' 4.37 April ERA to go down as they fit into them this season.

"We haven't been rolling yet, but it's gonna happen," he said. "We've got too many guys with too good of stuff to keep scuffling like we have been. I don't think we've been that bad, but I know we can be a lot better."

BAYLOR VISITS

As anticipated, the Angels got their first visit from hitting coach Don Baylor since he fractured his right femur in a freak accident opening day.

Using a walker, Baylor dropped by the clubhouse Tuesday and caught up with the team's coaches and several players.

"Just having Don walk in, you can still feel his presence," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "It's great to get caught up with him. We miss him."

Baylor remains weeks away from returning to the team on a full-time basis.

"He's making progress, but he still has a ways to go before we're going to see him in the dugout," Scioscia said. "It's still an effort for him to get in and move around a little bit."

MORIN'S DEBUT

Michael Morin, 22, pitched his first major league inning Wednesday. His second pitch was lined for a single by Cleveland's Michael Bourn, but the young right-hander rebounded, quickly inducing a double play by Mike Aviles.

That brought catcher Hank Conger out to the mound for a quick chat before the final out.

"I actually wanted to pause to give him a little more TV time," Conger said, joking.

Morin, flashing 94 mph velocity, got Nick Swisher to fly out to end the game.

"He seemed good," Conger said. "He came in, didn't really have too many nerves and just went after guys."

NOTES

Left-hander Sean Burnett (surgery for torn flexor tendon in elbow) threw 11 pitches in an extended spring training game in Arizona on Tuesday, per Scioscia, and plans to throw another Friday. Right-hander Dane De La Rosa (right shoulder irritation) is also scheduled to throw that day. ...

Winds up to 27mph winds were gusting at first pitch and kept up throughout the game, scattering trash from the stands onto the outfield grass. "This is a rarity," Scioscia said of the heavy gusts.

(c)2014 The Orange County Register (Santa Ana, Calif.)

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