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Angels unravel early and oddly against Indians

Angels left fielder Justin Upton can't make the catch on an inside-the-park home run by Indians batter Edwin Encarnacion in the second inning on April 2.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times )

They were two games over .500, having won three of four in Oakland.

They were riding a wave of international euphoria provided by their Japanese wonder.

They were saluting one their past fan favorites, Jered Weaver, asked to toss out the ceremonial first pitch.

The Angels were all set for their home opener Monday night except for one thing: They were playing the wrong team.

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Angeles center fielder Mike Trout makes a catch off the bat of Indians batter Francisco Lindor inthe 1st inning.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times )

There should have been no opponent less welcomed in Anaheim for this occasion than the Cleveland Indians, who recently have been resurrected in part because of their overwhelming success against the Angels.

This one ended up 6-0 in Cleveland’s favor, the Angels now having fallen to the Indians 12 straight times, a streak that ties the club record for losses to one team and goes back to when no one around here even knew the name Shohei Ohtani.

The latest defeat unraveled early and oddly, the Indians scoring their first run when the Angels stopped playing and their second on consecutive defensive miscues by a player who, during this homestand, will be recognized for winning a 2017 Gold Glove.

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The weirdness commenced with one out in the second, when Edwin Encarnacion hit a JC Ramirez fastball toward the base of the foul pole in left.

Justin Upton retreated and as he, the wall and the ball converged, so too did the outstretched glove of a fan.

Indians pitcher Mike Clevinger throws a pitch against the Angels int he 4th inning.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times )

The ball, however, hit nothing until striking the wide yellow line painted on the wall to differentiate fair from foul.

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Upton reached for it as it descended and then, thinking the ball had landed foul, didn’t pursue it.

“I ran after the ball and braced myself on the wall,” he said. “Had no clue the ball was fair. Couldn’t hear anything…so it was an inside-the-park home run.”

As Encarnacion kept circling toward the plate, Upton realized the play was live but had no time to recover.

Angels pitcher J.C. Ramirez stands on the mound as Indians batter Tyler Naquin rounds the bases on a two-run home run in the 4th inning.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times )
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An inning later, the Angels’ defensive lapse was even more bizarre because of the man who authored it.

Martin Maldonado is acknowledged as one of the finest catchers in baseball, one who last season had a fielding percentage of .998. He helped win one of the games in Oakland by picking off a runner from first.

But here, he was charged with a passed ball and throwing error on the same play, allowing Bradley Zimmer to advance to third and then home as the Indians assumed control on a night when the Angels’ offense went flat.

So what’s left? Just this: The winning pitcher Monday was Mike Clevinger, a former Angels’ fourth-round pick who, in 2014, was traded to Cleveland for reliever Vinnie Pestano.

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“It’s good fun,” Clevinger said of the victory. “I always want to leave a good impression.”

This home opener could have gone better. Or at least had a less cruel guest list.

Indians batter Bradley Zimmer beats Angels pitcher J.C. Ramirez to 1st base for a single in the 3rd inning.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times )
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jmiller2929@yahoo.com


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