Cleveland pitcher Justin Masterson, left, tosses the ball to first baseman… (Jae C. Hong / Associated…)
For most of this season, the Angels underachieved. Now, they are simply undermanned.
With first baseman Albert Pujols (left heel tear), second baseman Howie Kendrick (left knee strain) and star outfielder Mike Trout (tight right hamstring) sidelined by injuries, the Angels were no match for a contending Cleveland club this week.
The Indians completed a three-game sweep with a 3-1 victory in Angel Stadium on Wednesday, limiting lineups that featured minor league callups Kole Calhoun, Chris Nelson, Grant Green and Andrew Romine to four runs in 32 innings. The Angels went three for 26 with runners in scoring position in the series.
BOX SCORE: Cleveland 3, Angels 1
“Right now, we’re thin, but we’ve got to keep plugging away,” Manager Mike Scioscia said. “The toughest thing in this game is making the jump from triple A to the big leagues. There are going to be growing pains, some nights where some of those guys look overmatched. That’s what we’re going through right now.”
Jerome Williams allowed two runs and six hits in 6 1/3 innings, but that couldn’t prevent the right-hander from falling to 5-10 on the season and 0-8 with a 6.79 earned-run average in his last 12 starts.
The Angels have lost 19 of 26 games since July 26, the day Pujols suffered his season-ending injury, and they are 18 1/2 games out in the American League West.
“It’s tough any time you lose,” said center fielder Peter Bourjos, who snapped an 0-for-20 slump since his return from a broken right wrist with two singles. “I don’t care if it’s the first loss of the season or the last, it absolutely stinks.”
Cleveland took a 2-0 lead in the third when Michael Bourn tripled and Nick Swisher hit a two-run homer to right. The Angels snapped a 17-inning scoreless streak with a run in the sixth, as Josh Hamilton singled and scored on Hank Conger’s double to right.
The Angels threatened in the seventh when Romine walked, Bourjos bunted for a single and both advanced on J.B. Shuck’s sacrifice bunt.
But Indians starter Justin Masterson struck out Erick Aybar, and third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall dived to his left to stop Hamilton’s grounder and threw to first, robbing Hamilton of a two-run single.
Calhoun doubled with two out in the eighth, but Nelson, who is two for 24 with 11 strikeouts since his two-homer, five-RBI day in Yankee Stadium last Thursday, struck out to end the inning.
No relief for Blanton
The bullpen has provided no refuge for demoted starter Joe Blanton, who gave up a two-run homer to Drew Stubbs in the 14th inning of Tuesday night’s 4-1 loss to the Indians and has allowed 15 earned runs and 19 hits, including five homers, in 7 1/3 innings of his last four relief appearances.
Blanton, who threw six scoreless innings in his first three relief appearances, is 2-14 with a 6.12 ERA and 29 homers allowed, second-most in the major leagues, a performance that may leave the Angels with little choice but to release him and eat the remaining $8.5 million on his contract for 2014.
“Joe feels it harder than anybody, he’s not taking this easily,” Scioscia said. “He’s had a rough time getting outs. He keeps working hard, but the results obviously aren’t what he and we need.”
Trout, who is batting .333 with 21 homers and 78 RBIs, missed his third straight game Wednesday, and he appears questionable for Friday’s series opener in Seattle. Trout is doing agility drills and jogging but has not run full speed.
“He has some hurdles to clear — he’s not ready to play,” Scioscia said. “If he isn’t good getting out of the box, we’re not going to put him at risk. We’re not going to feel comfortable putting him out there until he has a good workout, and that won’t happen until Friday.”
Kendrick was eligible to be activated Wednesday, but it appears doubtful he’ll return by this weekend. He’s hitting, fielding and jogging but hasn’t run at full speed.
The Angels bolstered their overworked bullpen by recalling right-hander Billy Buckner from triple A and sending outfielder Collin Cowgill to Salt Lake. Relievers Michael Kohn and Kevin Jepsen were unavailable Wednesday after pitching three days in a row. … Williams has gone 12 starts without a win, the longest such streak by an Angels pitcher since Jim Abbott went 13 starts without a win in 1996.