CLEVELAND — The Angels have been awful against left-handed pitchers, beginning Friday with a .239 average against them. They lead the American League with 85 errors. Their bullpen has been horrible, with a 1-7 record, five blown saves and a 7.68 earned-run average in 13 games before Friday.
So Friday night’s 5-2 victory over the Cleveland Indians in Progressive Field, which ended a four-game losing streak, was a little different.
The Angels scored all their runs in the first inning off Indians left-hander Scott Kazmir. Mark Trumbo (two-run single) and Josh Hamilton (three-run homer) provided the big hits.
They played superb defense, center fielder Mike Trout racing to the gaps for several balls, left fielder Collin Cowgill making a diving catch in the ninth and third baseman Chris Nelson making several good plays.
And relievers J.C. Gutierrez and Dane De La Rosa, who got his first big league save, threw scoreless innings to preserve the win for Jered Weaver, who allowed two runs and six hits in seven innings to improve to 7-5 this season. Weaver is 6-0 with a 1.64 ERA in nine starts in Cleveland.
“The defense played well, and the five-run lead helped a lot,” Weaver said. “You don’t have to worry about being as fine as you would be in a tight game.”
Kazmir, who resuscitated his career after flaming out with the Angels in 2011, hit 95 mph in the first inning but departed in the fourth because of what was termed a “dead-arm” that will probably force him to miss his next start.
The last the Angels saw of Kazmir was in June 2011, when they released him with $14.5 million left on his contract. Acquired from Tampa Bay for a playoff push in August 2009, Kazmir went 9-15 with a 5.94 ERA in 2010 and lost velocity and command of his pitches.
“It’s tough to see any player go through what Scott did,” Angels Manager Mike Scioscia said. “It was really rough on him and obviously disappointing to us.”
Kazmir pitched for the independent-league Sugar Land (Texas) Skeeters in 2012, in Puerto Rico last winter and signed with the Indians in January. He was 7-4 with a 3.89 ERA before Friday night’s slip.
“For a pitcher to rediscover himself and pitch as well as Scott has takes a lot of hard work and determination,” Scioscia said. “It says a lot that he didn’t just take it to the ranch, relax and give up on something he loves. He’s made every effort to get back to where he is, and pitching independent ball was a big part of that.”
The Angels are out of contention, but the final 11/2 months will be important for left-hander Jason Vargas, who is expected to return to the rotation next week after missing seven weeks because of a blood clot in his armpit.
Vargas will be a free agent this winter and will have eight or nine starts to prove he is worthy of the deals — in the four-year, $50-million range — pitchers of his caliber and experience have gotten in recent winters.
“I’d like to pitch in a big league game before I even start thinking about that,” said Vargas, who was 6-4 with a 3.65 ERA in 14 starts before going on the disabled list.
Vargas, who pitched at Long Beach State, said it would be appealing to remain with a team “that’s well put together and is in the area you grew up,” even though the Angels will likely miss the playoffs for a fourth straight year.
“I don’t think this team is not built to go to the playoffs,” Vargas said. “One reason I’d play here is because I want a chance to get to the World Series. A lot of things have gone wrong this year, but that doesn’t change who’s in this locker room.”
Howie Kendrick, who suffered a left-knee sprain Monday night against Texas, was placed on the 15-day disabled list Friday. The Angels will add a player Saturday.... Center fielder Peter Bourjos went 0 for 4 with two strikeouts in his second rehabilitation game for triple-A Salt Lake Friday night.