Terry Francona has been an extremely good fit for the Indians. His players seem to feel the same way, considering the way they’ve been contending for a postseason berth.
Justin Masterson pitched effectively into the seventh inning, Nick Swisher hit a two-run homer and Cleveland completed a three-game sweep of the Los Angeles Angels with a 3-1 victory Wednesday.
“We’ve got guys in here that want to be in the playoffs, and we’re working our butts off to try and get there,” Swisher said.
The Indians, who began the day 51/2 games behind first-place Detroit in the AL Central and 31/2 behind Oakland in the race for the second wild card spot, improved to 69-58 and surpassed last season’s win total with 35 games to spare.
“I’m enjoying myself,” said Francona, who guided the Boston Red Sox to a pair of World Series titles. “I thought this was the right place — I knew it was — and it’s been everything I hoped it would be. I love the people I work with. I’m enjoying this team and trying to see if we can get better together. It’s been fun.”
Masterson (14-9) allowed a run and five hits over 62/3 innings, tied a season high with five walks and struck out seven just 10 days after giving up five runs over 41/3 innings against the Angels at Cleveland in his shortest outing of the season.
The right-hander, who made his big league debut against the Angels in April 2008, is 4-0 with a 1.87 ERA in nine career starts against them.
“It wasn’t easy. I mean, you look up in the fourth inning and I think Justin had more balls than strikes,” Francona said. “But he had good movement and he kind of bobbed and weaved through their lineup. He only had probably one inning where he really cruised.”
The Angels put the potential tying and go-ahead runs in scoring position in the seventh before Masterson fanned Erick Aybar with his 110th and final pitch for the second out.
Rich Hill came on and retired Josh Hamilton with a tremendous assist from third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall, who robbed the Angels’ slugger of a hit with a diving stop in the hole and threw him out.
“I feel a little disappointed that I only went 62/3 innings, because the goal is to get as deep as I can,” Masterson said. “I had some good movement early in the game, got a lot of ground balls and got some great defensive plays behind me.”
The Indians got an insurance run in the ninth when Mike Aviles scored on Dane De La Rosa’s second wild pitch of the inning.