ANAHEIM, Calif. — Cleveland manager Terry Francona had enough confidence in slumping Carlos Santana to keep the switch-hitting third baseman in the cleanup spot, and he delivered with a three-run homer.
Those were the Indians’ only runs, however. Justin Masterson gave up a go-ahead RBI single to Mike Trout in the eighth inning and a two-run triple by Raul Ibanez on his 113th and final pitch before ex-Indians setup man Joe Smith closed the door in the ninth to secure a 6-3 victory for the Los Angeles Angels on Monday night.
Tyler Skaggs allowed three runs and four hits in seven innings and struck out six. The left-hander, staked to a 1-0 lead on Albert Pujols’ RBI groundout in the first, retired his first 10 batters before giving up a double by Nick Swisher, a walk to Jason Kipnis and Santana’s second homer of the season into the left field bullpen.
“It was a great game for me, but I’m feeling a little sad because my team lost,” Santana said. “I’ve been working so hard on my hitting. I’ve been struggling, and those things happen. But it’s a long season.”
Santana came in batting .122 over his first 24 games and was 3 for 22 with men in scoring position. But Francona said during batting practice that he wasn’t ready to drop him out of the cleanup spot, where he has been in every game he’s played.
“I’ve been saying that for two weeks,” Francona said. “He’s a good hitter. He can hit. If I didn’t think he was a good hitter, I’d move him.”
Fernando Salas (2-0) got the victory with a hitless eighth inning after relieving Skaggs, and Smith recorded his first save after replacing the ineffective Ernesto Frieri as the Angels’ closer.
“Joe could be successful anywhere they put him,” Francona said. “I mean, he could pitch the seventh, eighth, whatever. And in the ninth, he doesn’t need that guy behind him (warming up in the bullpen). Some guys are better when they know there’s somebody back there, but he can handle the responsibility of knowing he has to get that last out — and he’s going to throw strikes.”
Smith, who signed a three-year, $15.75 million contract in November, was the setup man last year for the Tribe and got three saves along the way.
“I remember a conversation I had with Smitty when he was going through free agency, and I remember telling him flat out: ‘We want you back so bad. But if we don’t get you back, I hope you break the bank,” Francona said. “When he’s on your team, he’s easy to root for.”
Masterson (0-1) gave up six runs and seven hits in 7 1-3 innings after getting a no-decision in each of his first five starts. The right-hander hasn’t posted a victory since beating the Angels 3-1 last Aug. 21 at the “Big A.”
“You look at each game and that’s kind of the way it’s been,” Masterson said. “I haven’t had a whole lot of large leads, but that’s part of it. At least now I’ve got something to my credit. I got at L. It’s not as cool as a W, but at least there’s something there.”
Swisher misplayed J.B. Shuck’s leadoff grounder to first base in the eighth for an error, and Erick Aybar bunted Shuck to second before Trout singled to left on a full-count pitch to snap a 3-all tie. Pujols was walked intentionally in front of Ibanez, who capped the scoring with his triple to right-center.
The Angels tied it in the fifth on a two-out, two-run double down the right field line by Aybar after Masterson issued a leadoff walk to Ian Stewart and a single by David Freese. Stewart started at third base while Freese was the designated hitter on his 31st birthday.
NOTES: The Indians were 2 for 20 with runners in scoring position while getting swept in a series at San Francisco. They just five runs in the three-game series — while their 4-5-6 hitters were a combined 0 for 29. ... The Angels’ flight from New York didn’t get in until 5:15 a.m. local time after a 3-2 loss at Yankee Stadium on Sunday that ended their 4-5 road trip. “I wish they played 20 innings,” Francona said. ... Angels LF Josh Hamilton had his cast taken off Monday and is wearing a splint, the next step toward beginning his strength exercises and resuming baseball activities.