It wasn't so much a relief effort as it was a rescue mission.
Angels starter Jered Weaver was pulled after three innings because of a knot in his right shoulder blade, but the bullpen tag team of Darren Oliver, Jose Arredondo, Scot Shields and Francisco Rodriguez blanked the Cleveland Indians over the final six innings of a 3-2 victory in Angel Stadium on Tuesday night.
Catcher Jeff Mathis broke a 2-2 tie with a solo home run to lead off the fifth, and Rodriguez notched his major league-leading 41st save by striking out pinch-hitter Ryan Garko on a full-count changeup with the tying run at second base.
"The bullpen has been strong all year long," Rodriguez said of a relief corps that has combined for a 3.21 earned-run average and held opponents to a .213 average since June 1.
"That's one of the reasons I've been successful, because those guys give me the ball in the ninth inning in such good shape. If I would say I'm doing this by myself, that would be selfish. I have to give credit to them. It's teamwork."
Weaver, who hadn't pitched since July 9, said he felt fine warming up, but the right-hander struggled from the get-go, giving up a homer to Grady Sizemore to lead off the game and a run-scoring triple to Franklin Gutierrez in the second.
The Angels evened the score in the second on singles by Howie Kendrick and Juan Rivera, Mathis' run-scoring fielder's choice and stolen base and Reggie Willits' run-scoring single.
But after walking two in a scoreless third, an inning in which Manager Mike Scioscia and athletic trainer Adam Nevala came to the mound to check on Weaver, the starter was pulled. Though he is listed as day to day, Weaver is expected to make his next start.
"The first inning, it tightened up, and I had this big old knot in my scapula," Weaver said. "My fastball command was brutal, and I kept hanging my slider. I battled as much as I could, but it was probably a wise choice to get me out of there. Give a lot of credit to the bullpen. They came in and shut them down."
Oliver, the veteran left-hander who is quietly putting together a very solid season, gave up only one hit in 2 2/3 scoreless innings to earn the win, improving to 4-1 with a 3.30 ERA in 36 games.
Arredondo gave up three singles in 1 1/3 innings but escaped a first-and-third, two-out jam in the seventh by getting Ben Francisco to ground into a fielder's choice.
Shields struck out two of four batters in the eighth, and Rodriguez, after giving up a walk and stolen base to Sizemore, whiffed Garko with a changeup.
"That's the key to that pitch," Rodriguez said of his changeup, which has emerged as a dangerous weapon this season. "Throw it when they're not expecting it."
The Angels are now a major league-best 39-19 in games decided by two runs or fewer and have a major league-high 17 wins when scoring three runs or fewer.
Having been in so many tense, close games, have the Angels, who are 12-5 in July, built up a comfort level in such situations?
"No," Shields said. "You can never get comfortable, no matter what you're doing. You can just try to pitch like you always have."
Their one-run cushion was provided Tuesday by Mathis, who was already having a good night before his home run -- he threw out Jamey Carroll attempting to steal second in the first inning.
That ended a streak of 29 consecutive stolen bases by Angels opponents dating to June 18.
"That's been bothering me," Mathis said. "I've been working on it. I finally made a good throw and got him off the sack."
Mathis then opened the fifth by driving a 2-and-2 fastball from Cleveland right-hander Matt Ginter into the bullpen beyond the left-field wall for his seventh home run of the season and a 3-2 lead.
"I threw a guy out, put a couple runs on the board," Mathis said. "It was exciting."