Mathis leads Angels over Indians 3-2
ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP)—Francisco Rodriguez isn’t pitching like someone moping around after losing $2.5 million in arbitration. If anything, he’s pitching like someone who wants to break the bank when he becomes a free agent at season’s end.
“He obviously likes it here and wants to pitch here, but he also understands he’s on the brink of what most players dream about—as far as leverage,” manager Mike Scioscia said. “Obviously we want Frankie here and he wants to stay here. But there’s nothing that’s going to get in the way of him keeping his focus and pitching.”
No matter how this season ends for the Angels, who are a major league-best 61-39, Rodriguez’s price this winter will make last February’s arbitration hearing look like a pittance. There is no one on the staff who can replace his numbers should he leave for another club, so the top priority for owner Arte Moreno and rookie general manager Tony Reagins would appear to be locking him up with a long-term deal.
“There’s a lot of priorities we have on our team and certainly Frankie’s one of them. But we’ve got pressing business at hand and that’s going to take priority over some of the other things that might take place,” Scioscia said. “He hasn’t given that part of it much thought. He just wants to have the type of year that he’s capable of, and he’s doing it right now.”
Rodriguez, who is making $10 million this year, is six saves shy of the franchise record he set in 2006. The three-time All-Star hasn’t pitched more than one inning in any of his 48 appearances and has a 2.20 ERA.
“I want to take this as far as I can get,” said Rodriguez, who helped the Angels win a World Series title in 2002 after inheriting the closer role from Angels career saves leader Troy Percival.
“One of my goals early in the year was just to have a better year than I did last year. I’ve already passed that, so whatever I get after this is a plus. I just want to stay healthy and keep doing the little things that will keep me strong the rest of the year.”
Jose Arredondo retired Ben Francisco on a forceout with runners at the corners to end the Cleveland seventh. Scot Shields pitched a hitless eighth and Rodriguez got three outs in the ninth, striking out pinch-hitter Ryan Garko with the tying run at second.
“Don’t get me wrong. I haven’t done this by myself,” Rodriguez said. “The rest of the guys in the bullpen—Shields, Arredondo, (Justin) Speier, have given me the opportunity and have kept me from having to pitch in the eighth inning. That’s one of the reasons why I’ve been able to do what I’m doing right now.”
Angels right-hander Jered Weaver, making his first start since July 9, threw 77 pitches over three innings then left with tightness in the middle of his back. He allowed two runs and three hits. Darren Oliver (4-1) relieved him and allowed one hit in 2 2-3 innings for the victory.
“I think it probably had something to do with the two weeks off,” Weaver said. “I thought the rest was going to help me out. I felt awesome in the bullpen before the game, but in that first inning it all of a sudden just started tightening up and I felt a big old knot back there. That caused me not to be able to finish my pitches.
“I was battling as much as I could and wanted to keep going, but the better idea was to cool it than to go back out there in the fourth and maybe aggravate something else.”
Jeff Mathis hit a go-ahead homer leading off the fifth for the Angels against Matt Ginter (1-1). Mathis was in a 5-for-33 slump before he drove the right-hander’s 2-2 pitch into the left-field bullpen for his seventh homer.
“I left a couple balls up and they made me pay for them,” Ginter said. “The ball (to Mathis) was supposed to come in, but it came over the middle a little bit, and he made me pay.”
Ginter allowed three runs and seven hits over six innings in his second start with the Indians. On July 12, he held Tampa Bay to five hits over five scoreless innings in an 8-4 victory. He has yet to walk a batter.
Reggie Willits started in center field for the AL West-leading Angels in place of Torii Hunter, who was placed on the bereavement list so he could be with his seriously ill grandmother in Pine Bluff, Ark. Willits tied the game 2-2 in the second with a two-out RBI single after Howie Kendrick scored on a fielder’s choice grounder by Mathis.
Cleveland’s Grady Sizemore pulled even with Carlos Quentin of the White Sox for the league lead in homers with his 24th, driving Weaver’s fifth pitch of the game just over the 18-foot wall in right. Weaver had not allowed a home run in his previous four starts.
It was Sizemore’s sixth leadoff homer of the season, breaking Kenny Lofton’s 1999 club record. Sizemore’s 17 career leadoff homers are one behind Lofton’s franchise mark.
The Indians scored their second run when Kelly Shoppach was hit with an 0-2 pitch leading off the second and came around on Franklin Gutierrez’s triple to left-center. Gutierrez has three hits in three career at-bats against Weaver.
Mathis threw out Jamey Carroll trying to steal second in the first. That snapped a streak of 29 consecutive stolen bases by Angels opponents since June 18 when Mathis gunned down Marlon Anderson of the Mets at second. … Cleveland SS Jhonny Peralta, batting .337 since he was moved into the cleanup spot on June 22, was rested by Wedge. He pinch-hit in the eighth and struck out, ending his 11-game hitting streak. … Casey Blake batted cleanup for the Indians and was 1-for-3 with a walk. Blake has started in every spot in the lineup this year except leadoff.