Kipnis knows lineup needs to give more run support

Cleveland Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis is well aware that the team's bats need to start producing more for their pitchers.

Dennis Wierzbicki/USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Angels have been crushing the ball lately and lead the majors in home runs thanks to the power surge.

The Cleveland Indians, meanwhile, have been struggling to muster any sort of offense as they get set to kick off a three-game road series against the Angels.

With Albert Pujols enjoying a strong stretch at the plate, the Angels (11-13) have hit eight home runs in their last five games. They have 36 on the season and Pujols is tied for the major-league lead with nine.

David Freese hit his second homer of the year Sunday night, but the Angels couldn’t do much else in their second straight loss, 3-2 to the New York Yankees.

The lack of support wasted a strong start by Garrett Richards, who gave up two runs on three hits with seven strikeouts in a duel with Masahiro Tanaka, who struck out 11.

"Garrett was terrific. He had explosive stuff," manager Mike Scioscia said. "I think both pitchers went toe to toe. We just couldn’t get it done late."

The bullpen gave up only one hit, but Michael Kohn allowed two walks in the eighth before Nick Maronde gave up the go-ahead run thanks to a passed ball and wild pitch.

The Indians (11-14) also had a tough weekend, getting swept in an interleague series in San Francisco. Cleveland struggled to score, combining for just five runs and leaving 10 runners on base in the three games.

In Sunday’s finale, the Indians got a solid outing from Danny Salazar in a 4-1 loss. Salazar struck out eight and allowed just one run in seven innings. The bats were quiet, though, with only a solo homer from Yan Gomes in the eighth after Salazar departed.

Cleveland reliever Cody Allen took the loss after allowing a walk-off, three-run homer to Brandon Hicks in the bottom of the ninth inning.

"We needed to be able to give (our pitchers) more than one run through nine innings," second baseman Jason Kipnis said. "If you ask any person in the major leagues if they can beat a team held to one run in nine innings, you should be able to do it. I think this one is on the hitters."

Looking to get back on track, Cleveland turns to Justin Masterson (0-0, 4.50 ERA) in the opener versus the Angels, who haven’t had much success against him. Masterson is 4-0 in his career against Los Angeles and has allowed a .249 average to Angels hitters.

He’s been especially good on the road with a 2.14 ERA in six career games at Angel Stadium – his lowest at any ballpark where he’s pitched more than once.

Masterson will be opposed by left-hander Tyler Skaggs, who has never faced the Indians. Skaggs (2-0, 3.21 ERA) threw the ball well his last time out, going seven innings and allowing only two earns runs in a 7-2 victory at Washington last Monday.

Skaggs has struggled at home this year with a 5.54 ERA compared to a 1.20 on the road.

The Indians went 4-2 versus the Angels last season, including a sweep when the teams met in Southern California. It was Cleveland’s first three-game sweep in Anaheim since August 8-11, 1999.