By Joe Haakenson, AngelsWin.com Contributor -
GAME 27 - ANGELS AT INDIANS
CLEVELAND -- They made it look easy, their 8-0 win over the suddenly hapless Cleveland Indians completing a three-game sweep and extending their winning streak to seven games, but the Angels aren't about to gloat.
''Easy?'' Angels manager Mike Scioscia said, repeating a question. ''I don't look at it as easy at all. The game tonight was nip and tuck game. ... There was nothing easy about it.''
It only looks easy when a team plays as well as the Angels did Thursday night at Jacobs Field, and as well as it has played since losing to the Mariners on April 23. Since then the Angels have outscored their opponents 69-19, putting together their longest winning streak since winning nine in a row May 31-June 9, 1998. In the three-game sweep the Angels outscored the Indians, 36-4.
Everything was working Thursday. Starting pitcher Kevin Appier threw six scoreless innings, improving to 3-1 and earning his 150th career victory. Three relievers followed Appier to complete the Angels' second shutout of the season.
The Angels had 15 hits, including at least one by everyone who batted in the game. David Eckstein and Troy Glaus each had three hits, and Darin Erstad and Bengie Molina each had two. Tim Salmon hit a three-run homer, the 250th of his career.
The defense made sparkling plays at key moments. Glaus backhanded a grounder and started a double play in the fourth inning, and Erstad made a sliding catch in center field with runners on second and third in the seventh.
Even Julio Ramirez, who arrived from Triple-A Salt Lake only two hours before game time, threw a bullet from right field to nail Travis Fryman, who tried to score on a single by Omar Vizquel in the fifth inning.
It's difficult to imagine that this was a team that was off to its worst start in franchise history at 6-14 only 10 days ago.
''We weren't panicking, but you temper anything you do with what the situation needs,'' Scioscia said. ''They've turned it around. One thing after another has started to go the right way.''
Meanwhile, the Indians are going in the opposite direction. After starting the season 11-1, they've lost 14 of 16, including five in a row. They beat the Angels in two of three games to begin the season in Anaheim.
''The Angels are a completely different team than the one we saw to open the season,'' Indians manager Charlie Manuel said. ''They are a pretty good hitting team, and they matchup position by position pretty darn well. You've got to give them a lot of credit for sweeping us, even though we're not that bad. I know we're not that bad.''
Former Angel pitcher Chuck Finley (2-3) started for the Indians and held the Angels scoreless until the fourth when the Angels got five singles and scored two runs. Finley gave up another run in the sixth and was done for the night.
The Angels put the game away late, getting the three-run homer by Salmon in the ninth inning. Salmon had struck out three times before hitting the homer.
''For me, it was from the outhouse to the penthouse in one swing,'' Salmon said. ''For 2 1/2 hours I was having a miserable night, and in two seconds, it all changes.''
The Angels' turnaround might seem just as sudden. During the streak they've averaged 9.9 runs per game while the pitchers have a 1.99 ERA.
''It's about time we chipped in,'' Erstad said of the offense. ''The pitchers have been doing it all year.''
''Lately our offense has been incredible,'' said Appier, who was the starting pitcher in both of the Angels' shutouts. ''To come in here and do what we did against this team in this park is amazing. Everything's better, the offense, defense and pitching.''
CLEVELAND -- The Angels reportedly are among four teams contacted by the Rangers regarding Gabe Kapler, who is being shopped because the Rangers have an abundance of outfielders. The Rangers recently traded for Calvin Murray and expect Juan Gonzalez back from an injury soon. They also have Carl Everett and Rusty Greer.
Besides the Angels, the Dodgers, Pirates and Braves are teams possibly interested in Kapler, 26, a graduate of Taft High in Woodland Hills.
The Angels might be reluctant to trade for Kapler because of his salary ($1.8 million this year and $3.25 million next year), but could be inclined to acquire him if they don't expect to re-sign center fielder Darin Erstad after the season. Erstad is eligible for free agency after the season and has been non-committal about his plans for next year.
Also, the Angels have what the Rangers are looking for -- pitching. The Angels are developing a surplus of pitchers in the farm system, and recently called up Matt Wise, who can both start and relieve.
Mickey Callaway, who was acquired from the Devil Rays in a trade for minor league shortstop Wilmy Caceres in the offseason, is another possibility. Callaway is 4-0 with a 0.96 ERA in five starts at Triple-A Salt Lake.
Angels general manager Bill Stoneman, who is on the trip with the team, will not comment about players on opposing teams.
For now, the Angels' reserve outfielders are Orlando Palmeiro and Julio Ramirez. Ramirez joined the club Thursday after being called up from Triple-A Salt Lake, where he was hitting .266 with one homer and six RBIs.
Ramirez, 24, briefly played in the majors with the Marlins (1999) and White Sox (2001), hitting .103 (6 for 58) in 37 games. The Angels claimed him off waivers from the White Sox on March 16.
''We'll see what he can do there,'' manager Mike Scioscia said. ''There's a role there available for somebody. We'll use him in right field and as a right-handed bat. We'll see if he's what we're looking for.''
Ramirez said he was ''shocked'' to get called up. He was pulled from the game against Sacramento Wednesday in the fourth inning and told he was going to Cleveland.
When he got to Cleveland, he found himself in the starting lineup, batting eighth and playing right field Thursday night. In his first at-bat, he bunted for a single. In his second at-bat, he came to the plate with the bases loaded and two out and struck out.
But his most significant play of the game came in the fifth inning, when he threw out Travis Fryman trying to score from second on a single by Omar Vizquel.
Indians outfielder Milton Bradley might need surgery on his eye after getting hit with a baseball in Wednesday's game against the Angels. Brad Fullmer's drive to right-center caromed off the fence and hit Bradley just below the left eye, breaking the orbital bone.
Bradley, who will be re-examined Saturday, has complained of double vision and has an inflamed iris.