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ANGELS 7, CLEVELAND 6

Gary Matthews Jr. thrives and Angels survive

Closer Brian Fuentes can't get an Indian out for the second night in a row, but Jason Bulger gets the save.

July 29, 2009|MIKE DiGIOVANNA | ON THE ANGELS

The left-hander who gets the big bucks to hold late leads and finish out games needed a bailout package of his own Tuesday night.

Jason Bulger relieved suddenly struggling closer Brian Fuentes and pitched his way out of a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the ninth inning, as the Angels held on for a white-knuckle-ride of a 7-6 victory over the Cleveland Indians.

For the second straight game, Fuentes did not retire any of the four batters he faced in the ninth.

A two-out, three-run double by Gary Matthews Jr. in the bottom of the eighth snapped a 4-4 tie and gave the Angels a 7-4 lead, but Fuentes walked No. 9 hitter Andy Marte to open the ninth and gave up a double to Asdrubal Cabrera.

Jamey Carroll singled to make it 7-5, and Shin-Soo Choo walked to load the bases. Manager Mike Scioscia then made a rare move, pulling Fuentes for Bulger before his closer blew the save.

"His last couple outings, he's been struggling with everything," Scioscia said of Fuentes. "It didn't look like he was comfortable. Obviously, his release point was off. I don't know if he's getting a little tired. The ball has not been coming out of his hand the way we know it can."

It came out of Bulger's hand just fine. The right-hander got Victor Martinez to ground to first baseman Kendry Morales, who threw to second to start a double play on which Cabrera scored.

Bulger, who received the relay at first base on the double play, got Jhonny Peralta to ground to short for his first major league save.

"The last thing Scioscia told me before he got off the mound was to be sure to cover first base on a ground ball," Bulger said. "Good advice from the manager."

The Angels maintained their 2 1/2 -game lead over Texas in the American League West and notched their major league-leading 33rd come-from-behind win.

They trailed, 4-3, when Erick Aybar led off the eighth with a single and Bobby Abreu walked off Cleveland starter David Huff.

Sidearm-throwing right-hander Joe Smith came on to face cleanup batter Juan Rivera, who lined a single to left to score Aybar for a 4-4 tie.

Mike Napoli grounded into a double play, but left-hander Tony Sipp replaced Smith and walked pinch-hitter Maicer Izturis and Morales to load the bases.

Matthews, who doubled to spark a three-run rally in the third, laced a 1-and-1 fastball to the wall in left-center to score three runs.

"I didn't even know the guy," Matthews said of Sipp. "It was a pretty short scouting report. And the gun on the scoreboard wasn't working, so I couldn't even tell how hard he was throwing, until he threw the first pitch by me."

The comeback obscured another shaky start by Jered Weaver, who gave up four runs and eight hits, including solo home runs by Ben Francisco and Peralta, in five innings.

Since throwing his third complete game of the season, a five-hit, 119-pitch shutout of San Diego on June 14, Weaver is 3-1 with a 7.35 earned run average in eight starts.

The Angels wore 1980 replica jerseys and played music videos and movie clips from that decade throughout the evening Tuesday, which provided a fitting backdrop for Weaver.

The right-hander's fastball, which usually touches 90-91 mph, also had a retro look -- it was stuck in the 80s.

Weaver kept the Angels in the game but looked soggy, needing 102 pitches to complete five innings.

"Any time I throw 100 pitches in five innings, that's not good," Weaver said. "The fastball wasn't there. The command wasn't good. I need to clean it up."

Matt Palmer replaced Weaver and gave up one hit over three scoreless innings to improve to 9-1.

"What Palmer did," Scioscia said, "was as big as anything that happened tonight."

--

mike.digiovanna@latimes.com

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