Aaron Laffey and the Cleveland Indians watched another game and another star slip away.
Hours after trading Cliff Lee, the Indians lost to the Los Angeles Angels 9-3 Wednesday. Howie Kendrick homered and drove in a career-high five runs, and John Lackey easily outpitched Laffey.
For the second straight season, Cleveland traded the reigning AL Cy Young winner before the non-waiver deal deadline. They sent Lee and outfielder Ben Francisco to Philadelphia for four minor leaguers, a year after moving CC Sabathia to Milwaukee.
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“It’s kind of tough watching guys go and guys you’re close with,” Laffey said. “Hopefully for them, they continue to have success and stay healthy. The team’s got to make some moves, and that’s one of them.”
Lee, who was scheduled to start on Saturday at Detroit, is 7-9 with a 3.14 ERA.
“We haven’t been as successful as they wanted to be this year, and they think it’s going to improve the team for me to get traded,” Lee said.
Lackey (7-4) held the Indians to a run and three hits in seven innings with eight strikeouts and four walks. The right-hander, who started the season on the disabled list because of a strained right forearm, is 4-0 with a 1.47 ERA over his last four starts.
“Other than a three- or four-hitter stretch there in the seventh, I felt like I was in command of all of my pitches,” Lackey said. “I feel like my strength, stamina and command are all coming together.”
Laffey (4-3) gave up seven runs and seven hits in four-plus innings. He and Lackey faced each other once before, on July 23, 2008, when Laffey lost a 14-11 decision in Anaheim.
Kendrick singled home a run in the first, added a two-run single off reliever Chris Perez in the fifth and capped his day with a two-run homer in the seventh off rookie left-hander Tony Sipp.
“Howie had a great approach at the plate today,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “That is what he can do. It is nice to see him feeling more comfortable at the plate and come back up and get some big hits, because we are going to need it.”
In 17 games since his return from a three-week demotion to Triple-A Sale Lake, Kendrick is batting .383 (23 for 60) with 14 RBIs.
“No one wants to be sent down, and I was a little upset here and there when it happened,” Kendrick said. “At the same time, looking back, I think it was the best thing for me. That is what I needed. “I have benefited from it coming back up here. It’s allowed me to enjoy it a lot more and just take the game for what it is, and not worry about getting out.”
The AL West-leading Angels reached the 100-game mark with a 60-40 record, one win shy of last season at this stage. They have played better than .500 ball during the first 100 games in each of Mike Scioscia’s 10 seasons as manager, reaching the 60-win plateau three times.
Laffey needed an astounding 43 pitches to get out of a two-run first in which catcher Kelly Shoppach committed two passed balls – one of which allowed Chone Figgins to reach base on a strikeout. Kendry Morales and Kendrick hit RBI singles.
“We didn’t do much for him. We didn’t play very well behind him, and he really had to work hard in that first inning,” manager Eric Wedge said. “Offensively, we just didn’t get anything going against Lackey. He does a real good job of expanding the plate with how he uses his fastball, and he had that breaking ball, too.”
Lee will be replaced in the rotation by right-hander Fausto Carmona, who has pitched at least seven innings in each of his last two starts for Triple-A Columbus. He is 3-3 with a 3.73 ERA in seven minor league starts since being sent down on June 5. Whether Carmona goes Friday or Saturday has yet to be determined, Wedge said.
NOTES: The Indians are 3-37 when scoring fewer than four runs. … Cleveland’s catchers had five passed balls through the team’s previous 101 games this season. … Cleveland CF and leadoff hitter Grady Sizemore, who missed the previous two games because he was sick, was 0 for 4 with a walk in his return to the lineup. … Last August, Lee was 5-0 with a 1.86 ERA in five starts. … Cleveland finished its road trip 6-3 after dropping the final two.