ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Ever since Aaron Civale was a youngster coming up in Connecticut, he has thrived on being the underdog in a big pitching matchup.
Not many names in baseball are bigger than Shohei Ohtani these days, and Civale more than held his own against the Angels’ two-way star during another big win for the Cleveland Indians.
Civale pitched seven strong innings, Josh Naylor drove in the tiebreaking run in the sixth and Cleveland overcame Ohtani’s latest do-everything performance for a 3-2 victory over Los Angeles on Wednesday night.
Ohtani pitched five-hit ball into the fifth with five strikeouts for the Angels, and he subsequently moved from the mound to right field for 1 1/3 more innings, allowing him to get a third at-bat. The majors’ home run leader went 1 for 3 at the plate with a bunt single.
But Civale (6-1) yielded four hits and a walk while striking out eight in the latest impressive start of his first full major league season. Going against Ohtani fueled his fire.
“When I was a kid playing in high school or college, I’ve always loved playing against the guy that was the bigger name,” Civale said. “It’s never been me as a primary, but I’m OK with that. I like the challenge it presents. That’s something I love to work through. I love pitching against those guys. That’s what makes for great baseball. I take those challenges every time.”
Jake Bauers homered and Franmil Reyes had an RBI double as Cleveland took the final two games of its series in Anaheim after a four-game skid.
Civale threw 114 pitches and kept the Indians in it until Naylor delivered the go-ahead RBI with a single that glanced off reliever Tony Watson (2-2) in the sixth.
“He’s not afraid of anybody, man,” catcher Austin Hedges said of Civale. “This is a good hitting team, (but) he’s not afraid of any lineup.”
James Karinchak pitched the ninth for his fifth save. Cleveland didn’t allow an Angels runner past first base in the final five innings.
Jared Walsh hit his eighth homer and José Iglesias had an RBI double for the Angels, who have lost six of eight. Los Angeles is 0-2 since losing Mike Trout for at least six weeks with a strained calf.
Although Ohtani’s velocity peaked at 95 mph — low for a right-hander with 100-mph stuff — he was quite effective against everyone except Bauers, who homered in the fifth, and Reyes, who had an RBI double in the first and another double in the fourth.
Ohtani said he isn’t injured, and he doesn’t feel he needs more rest after playing in every game this season — and playing in the field for the third time this year.
“I’m not worried about any injuries,” Ohtani said through his translator. “I was able to stay in there and play defense. I think my body was just feeling really heavy and sluggish. … I wasn’t feeling the fastball at all today, so I figured I could throw the cutter and get some quick outs, make them put the ball in play.”
Ohtani pitched while he was also the majors’ leader in homers for the third time this year, becoming the first player since Babe Ruth in 1919 to accomplish that feat multiple times in a season.
Ohtani gave up Reyes’ slow-rolling RBI double thanks to a defensive shift in the first. Bauers tied it in the fifth with a homer, just the third allowed by Ohtani this season.
“He just didn’t have it going on early,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said. “I thought he got (his velocity) up after we tied it up, but he just wasn’t feeling his fastball tonight. He pitched mostly with sliders and cutters. I don’t know if it was the residue of (pitching and/or hitting every day).”
Ohtani led off the Angels’ sixth with a bunt single to beat the shift, but was caught stealing second.
In the sixth, José Ramírez walked, advanced on a groundout and scored when Naylor’s drive back to Watson glanced off the pitcher and past the shift into center.
“Hopefully I didn’t hurt the pitcher, but lucky enough, it went off him and redirected,” Naylor said.
WHAT A THROW
The Angels kept their deficit to 3-2 in the seventh when Justin Upton made a running catch and an extraordinary throw from left field to get Amed Rosario at the plate.
Angels: RHP Jaime Barria was sent down to Triple-A Salt Lake after throwing four innings Tuesday night. LHP Dillon Peters’ contract was selected.
Indians: After a day off, Triston McKenzie (1-2, 5.79) takes the mound Friday in Cleveland for the opener of a weekend series with Minnesota.
Angels: The Twins visit Angel Stadium on Thursday for a makeup doubleheader necessitated when two games last month were postponed by a COVID-19 outbreak for Minnesota. RHP Alex Cobb (1-2, 5.48 ERA) will come off the 10-day injured list to start the opener, and RHP Griffin Canning (3-2, 4.78) will start the second game.
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