CLEVELAND -- Abraham Almonte launched a grand slam, Carlos Santana drove in three runs with a little help from the sun and Josh Tomlin spun seven-plus strong innings to lead the Indians to a 9-2 rout over the Angels on Sunday at Progressive Field.
The win was the eighth in the past 10 games for Cleveland (63-66), which still has a pulse in the American League Wild Card race. The Indians are five games back of the second Wild Card spot with four teams, including the Angels (65-65), ahead of them. Los Angeles, which is 6 1/2 games out of first in the AL West and 3 1/2 back of a Wild Card spot, has lost eight of 10 and 25 of its last 36.
The Indians are not paying much mind to the standings just yet.
"You can't look too far ahead," Indians outfielder Michael Brantley said. "If you look too far ahead, you start putting pressure on yourself and not playing good baseball. You've got to take one game for what it is -- good, bad or indifferent -- and the next day you have to do the same thing over and over. Then, once you get towards the end, then you can start looking a little bit. You can peek. Not look. Peek."
Almonte delivered a fifth-inning grand slam off Angels starter Jered Weaver, who was charged with eight runs on nine hits in six innings. That all the runs were deemed earned seemed a bit unfair, considering Santana's two doubles on the day came on balls lost in the sun by Angels outfielders.
The elements did not deter Tomlin, though. The Indians righty limited the Angels to two runs (one on a homer by Grant Green) on six hits, ending with eight strikeouts and no walks. Three of the hits allowed by Tomlin came off the bat of Angels center fielder Mike Trout, who finished a home run shy of his second career cycle.
Trout laughed when asked if he tried to go deep in the eighth, an at-bat that ended in a bloop single to right field.
"When I do that, I get my foot down late and I get jammed," Trout said. "That's what happened."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Escape act:Kole Calhoun led off Sunday's game with a single and Trout followed with a triple, but the Angels did not score a run in the first inning. Tomlin picked off Calhoun prior to Trout's shot off the center-field wall and then proceeded to strike out Albert Pujols before inducing a flyout off the bat of David Murphy.
Silver lining: Trout entered Sunday's game with a .627 OPS in August, his lowest for any month since his first full season in 2012. But the superstar center fielder showed some encouraging signs in the series finale, going 4-for-4 with an RBI. Trout started the game with a triple high off the tall fence in center field, then lined a single up the middle, laced a double down the left-field line and muscled a blooper into shallow right field.
"I've been feeling good at the plate the last couple days," Trout said. "Obviously the results aren't there, but that's baseball. You have to stay positive. Once you start thinking negative and trying to change a bunch of things, that's when you get in trouble." More >
Carlos Suntana: Twice on Sunday, a high fly ball off Santana's bat led to a sun-assisted double for Cleveland's first baseman. Trout lost track of one in center in the first inning, leading to an RBI double for Santana. In the fifth, Calhoun lost sight of one in right field, where it dropped in for another two-base hit. Two batters later, Almonte delivered his grand slam.
"We'll take it," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "But saying that, too, when it happened, Carlos ended up on third and he ended up on second. … Rather than put your head down and maybe stand at first because you're mad, sometimes when you get a break, you take advantage of it."
Meatball: Weaver looked like he was going to avoid trouble despite putting runners on second and third with one out in the fifth inning, a byproduct of the Santana fly ball that Calhoun lost in the sun. After a rare mound visit by Angels manager Mike Scioscia, Weaver intentionally walked Lonnie Chisenhall, then got Giovanny Urshela to pop out. But to the next batter, Almonte, Weaver grooved a 1-1, 80-mph pitch right down the middle for a grand slam, increasing the Angels' deficit from two to six. Weaver's ERA is now 4.94.
"One too many heaters in," Weaver said. "If you still call it a fastball. I don't know. Whatever you guys want to call it."
"It feels great. I've been talking about this for a long time: I feel so comfortable here. I feel free. They let me play. They don't expect too much from me. They tell me to play hard, enjoy, having fun, and I like it." -- Almonte, acquired from the Padres on July 31
"The energy that's been here since I've been back up has been unreal. It's been awesome. From 2 o'clock, when everybody starts arriving, until the game's over with, the energy is there, and that's huge for us. We need to continue that energy." -- Tomlin, who was recalled from Triple-A on Aug. 15
"No one takes these last 36 games in stride, for sure. These guys want to achieve, they want to play well, they feel it when we're not playing well. Even though this is a tough stretch, we always talk about, 'Hey, the sun is coming up, and let's go out there and try to create some momentum.'" -- Scioscia, on the state of his struggling team
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
The Indians hit a grand slam on Saturday (Yan Gomes) and Sunday (Almonte) against the Angels. It marked the first time since Sept. 17-18, 2010, that Cleveland belted a grand slam in consecutive games. Shin-Soo Choo and Matt LaPorta achieved the feat the last time around against Kansas City. The Angels had not allowed a grand slam since July 5 last year against Houston.
The Indians have collected at least 10 hits in 12 consecutive home games, marking the longest such streak at home for any Major League team since 2002, when the Rangers also enjoyed a 12-game run of that type.
The Angels are back at .500 for the first time since June 26, when they were 37-37. Immediately after that, they won 17 of 20 games to vault into first place. And immediately after that, they dropped 25 of 36 to fall out of the playoff picture. With 65 losses, the Angels have already surpassed their total from last year, when they finished a Major League-best 98-64. More >
WHAT'S NEXT Angels: Lefty Hector Santiago (7-8, 3.13 ERA) starts Monday's series opener from Oakland, opposite fellow lefty Felix Doubront (1-1, 3.70 ERA). Santiago gave up five runs on seven hits and three walks in 4 1/3 innings against the Tigers on Wednesday and has posted a 5.23 ERA in eight second-half starts, following his first trip to the All-Star Game. First pitch from O.co Coliseum is slated for 7:07 p.m. PT.
Indians: Right-hander Danny Salazar (11-7, 3.30 ERA) is slated to take the ball for the Tribe in the opener of a three-game set in Toronto at 7:07 p.m. ET on Monday night. Salazar missed his last scheduled start due to illness, but he has a 1.99 ERA with 54 strikeouts in 54 1/3 innings over his past eight outings. On Aug. 22 in New York, the righty gave up five runs (four earned) in 4 2/3 innings against the Yankees.