CLEVELAND -- The wealth of offense found by the Indians over the weekend went missing in the club's return to Progressive Field. On Monday night against the Angels, Cleveland could not even come up with some loose change.
Overmatched and overpowered by Angels ace Jered Weaver, the Indians fell, 3-0, in the opener of a three-game set with the scorching-hot club from Orange County, Calif. Tribe starter Ubaldo Jimenez pitched admirably, but Cleveland's bats were not there to back him up.
"It was a tough loss," Jimenez said. "But we were facing a really tough pitcher, too. It was really hard to get a run."
After churning out 32 runs on 55 hits over the past four games in Baltimore, the Indians (40-39) were lost at the plate as Weaver spun another one of his gems. The right-hander held the first 18 Tribe hitters he faced to a lone single, and sidestepped damage during the only major threat he received all evening.
In the seventh inning, Weaver walked Jason Kipnis before allowing a single to Michael Brantley and issuing a free pass to Carlos Santana to load the bases with no outs for the Indians. The Angels' starter settled in unfazed, inducing a grounder off the bat of veteran Johnny Damon to initiate his escape act.
"He's a very good pitcher but, unfortunately, I let the team down," Damon said. "I was in a situation to -- worst case -- at least try to push across one right there. He gave me some pitches off the plate that I felt like I could drive to left, and I didn't."
Angels third baseman Alberto Callaspo gloved Damon's grounder and threw to the plate to easily retire Kipnis for the frame's first out. Indians first baseman Casey Kotchman followed with a popout to catcher Bobby Wilson, and Weaver halted Cleveland's comeback bid by striking out Shelley Duncan to end the inning.
Disappointment filled the home dugout. Awe swept through the visiting side.
"What he did tonight was awesome," Angels second baseman Howie Kendrick said. "To be able to go out there -- bases loaded, none out -- and be able to work through that, keep his cool, execute, that's what you look for in your ace guy. That's why he's our ace."
The Indians tried to break through against Weaver again in the eighth, when Jack Hannahan and Shin-Soo Choo opened with consecutive singles. At that turn, the Angels handed the ball to lefty Scott Downs, who got Asdrubal Cabrera to ground into a double play and created a flyout from Kipnis to shut down the Tribe once again.
Weaver (9-1) finished with seven-plus shutout innings, giving him 13 shutout frames against the Indians this season. In his career at Progressive Field, the Angels' right-hander is now 5-0 with a 1.52 ERA. In Monday's masterpiece, Weaver scattered five hits, walked three, but finished with only two strikeouts for Los Angeles (45-35).
While making sure to credit Weaver, Indians manager Manny Acta also criticized his offense.
"We didn't have a very good approach," Acta said. "Not to take anything away from Weaver, because he does this every five days against somebody in the big leagues, but I felt that we could've had a better approach early in the game.
"I just felt that we were swinging at his pitches, and too early in the count a lot of times. Too many quick outs. Yeah, he was throwing strikes, but still. We were rolling over a lot, and he just kept flipping offspeed stuff and we didn't make the adjustment."
Jimenez (7-7) was saddled with a hard-luck loss despite holding the Angels -- winners in 17 of their past 24 games -- to three runs on eight hits in 7 2/3 innings. Over his past six outings, Jimenez has posted a 2.93 ERA over 40 innings of work, lowering his season ERA to 4.59 from 5.79 in that span.
The continued success of Jimenez served as a silver lining for Cleveland.
"Ubaldo pitched well again," Acta said. "I like the way he's throwing. He's establishing his fastball and he's in the strike zone, and he doesn't have a lot of traffic out there like he did early in the year. I think he's [headed] in the right direction."
In the fifth inning, the Angels began their first rally when Jimenez hit Kendrick with a pitch to open the frame. Kendrick stole second base, advanced to third on a single from Wilson and later scored on a sacrifice fly from Erick Aybar to put the Indians behind, 1-0. Kendrick pushed L.A. to a 2-0 advantage with a solo home run in the seventh.
Jimenez yielded a leadoff single to Aybar in the eighth and later issued intentional walks to Albert Pujols (with one out and first base open) and Mark Trumbo (with two outs and first base open) to load the bases. After a brief chat on the mound with Acta, Jimenez lost his command and walked Callaspo to force in a run, giving the Angels a 3-0 lead.
"As a pitcher," Jimenez said. "You've got to find a way to get back to the strike zone, but I just couldn't."
The damage done was minimal, but it was ample for the Angels.
"This one hurts," Damon said, "especially with how good Ubaldo threw the ball."