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Angels getting slammed, the latest by Indians, as stretch run starts

Angels getting slammed, the latest by Indians, as stretch run starts
Angels relieverJoe Smith heads back to the mound with a new ball after Indians catcher Yan Gomes hit a grand slam in the eighth inning Saturday night in Cleveland. (Jason Miller / Getty Images)

If not peaking too soon is part of the master plan for the Angels, they're doing a great job of sticking to it.

Remember last season, when the Angels played their best ball from mid-August to mid-September, winning 25 of 31 games and clinching the American League West on Sept. 17? They lost their edge while going 3-8 in their final 11 games and were swept by Kansas City in the division series.

As September nears this season, there is no edge to lose. The Cleveland Indians pummeled setup man Joe Smith for five runs in the eighth inning Saturday night, Yan Gomes plunging the dagger into the Angels with a game-breaking grand slam for an 8-3 victory at Progressive Field.

The Angels have lost 23 of 35 games to fall 61/2 games behind Houston in the American League West and 21/2 games behind Texas for the second wild-card spot, and their playoff hopes are slipping away.

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"We're going through a rough stretch," the normally reliable Smith said after the worst outing of his nine-year career. "We know every game matters. It's getting down to crunch time."

The score was tied, 3-3, when Smith, the sidearm-throwing right-hander, took over for Garrett Richards to start the eighth. Richards gutted his way through a seven-inning, season-high 117-pitch start, giving up three runs and seven hits, striking out nine and walking one.

He got stronger after a 38-minute rain delay in the third, retiring 13 of the last 14 batters he faced, and the Angels scored three runs off 2014 AL Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber, Kole Calhoun hitting the first pitch of the game for his 20th homer and David Murphy adding a solo shot in the fourth.

But Smith lost an eight-pitch battle with Francisco Lindor, who led off with a hard single to right. Michael Brantley lined a single to right-center, and Carlos Santana doubled to right for a 4-3 lead.

Smith walked Lonnie Chisenhall intentionally to load the bases and set up a double play, but Gomes crushed Smith's next pitch for a 424-foot slam to center, the first homer Smith yielded to a right-handed hitter since Boston's Yoenis Cespedes took him deep Aug. 10, 2014, a span of 142 batters.

"Nothing was working," Smith said. "I tried to throw a sinker in to Gomes. I missed middle-middle. If you don't throw the ball where you want to, the guy with the bat is going to do some damage."

Guys with bats aren't doing enough damage for the Angels, who rank last in the AL this month in average (.217), runs per game (2.9), hitting with runners in scoring position (.181), on-base percentage (.279) and slugging (.340).

Third baseman David Freese has missed more than a month because of a broken finger but is expected back Monday.

Second baseman Johnny Giavotella is out with a personal medical issue.

And 2014 AL most valuable player Mike Trout is mired in a month-long slump, hitting .194 with one homer in August.

"To be honest with you, if Mike was doing his normal stuff, it still might not be enough right now," Manager Mike Scioscia said. "Not one guy is going to carry us. We need to reestablish our depth in our lineup. Some of that will happen when get guys healthy again, and that's what we're looking forward to."

Up next

Jered Weaver (6-9, 4.59 ERA) will oppose Cleveland right-hander Josh Tomlin (2-1, 3.26) at Progressive Field on Sunday at 10 a.m. PDT. TV: FS West; Radio: 830, 1330.

Twitter: @MikeDiGiovanna

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