ANAHEIM -- Angels closer Brian Fuentes is officially human. Automatic nearly the entire 2009 season, Fuentes came in to get a save in the ninth inning and instead came away with an 8-6 loss, after giving up four runs Monday in front of 35,371 at Angel Stadium. Before Monday, Fuentes had not allowed a run in his previous 19 appearances and had converted all 17 of his save chances.
"The Indians are swinging the bat well and Brian just seemed like he missed a couple of spots and they hit it," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "It happened pretty quickly, but he has been so good for so long, this is one we turn the page on." With the Angels leading, 6-4, in the ninth, Fuentes surrendered two early base hits to Jamey Carroll and Shin-Soo Choo to start off the inning, before Indians first baseman Victor Martinez rocked a three-run homer to left field, making the score 7-6. The Indians were not done, waiting only until the next hitter, Jhonny Peralta, to belt a shot on the first pitch to left-center field off Fuentes. Scioscia knows from experience, though, that every pitcher during a season is going to face a bump in the road and a misstep here or there, which is exactly what happened to Fuentes on Monday night. "For any pitcher that is out there that runs into guys swinging the bat well, if you miss some spots, there is always a chance of something happening like it did tonight, and those guys got it done," Scioscia said. "That is the bottom line." Things had been going the Angels' way for much of the night before the two home runs in the ninth, with the Angels creating some long-ball action themselves. The Angels hit three consecutive home runs in the second inning, starting with Juan Rivera, Kendry Morales and then Mike Napoli. The last time the Angels had three home runs in a row was Sept. 18 in Oakland. It was also the ninth time in club history. Morales helped tack on another run in the sixth inning when his fly ball to left-center went off the glove of Indians left fielder Chris Gimenez and over the wall for a solo home run. Morales' 20th home run of the season gave him his second multihomer of the season and his career. Rivera, in his first game back since a tight right hamstring sidelined him for eight straight games, had two hits and two RBIs. "He didn't look like he missed a beat. He was on everything tonight, and that was good to see," Scioscia said. "We are going to need his bat in there." Even with the plethora of home runs and hits, Angels starter Joe Saunders couldn't get past the fifth inning, surrendering four runs on 10 hits as he ERA climbed to 5.02. "I didn't think Joe was really sharp tonight," Scioscia said. "He was plagued by a lot of the same things like getting behind in counts, and he didn't really have control of his offspeed pitches. "He was coming into the zone and those guys were swinging pretty good off of him." In the third inning, after Saunders continued to get behind hitters and gave up an RBI double to Peralta and a walk to Ben Francisco, Scioscia made his way out of the dugout, hoping to fix what was plaguing the lefty. "He just told me to stop falling behind guys and start throwing strikes, and I told him, 'I hear ya,'" Saunders said. "It is just a matter of going out there and executing." To make him more effective, the coaching staff has tried working with Saunders on his rhythm and tempo, something Scioscia felt Saunders struggled with throughout the game. "He is trying to get into good zones early and bring his changeup into play where he can command it," Scioscia said. "And if he works ahead in the count, everything becomes more effective and tonight it was just the opposite." While Saunders' inability to throw strikes and go deep in the game was a hard pill for Scioscia to swallow, he felt he had the arms in the bullpen to get the job done. Before Fuentes entered the game in the ninth, the bullpen in relief of Saunders allowed no runs on five hits. "I though we had some guys in the bullpen who were fresh," Scioscia said. "We almost got there."
Quinn Roberts is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.