ANAHEIM -- The Indians needed to make something happen against Jered Weaver. The Angels ace has dominated Cleveland over the past couple of years and he was up to his old tricks out of the gate on Monday night.
Jason Kipnis provided the spark and got the Tribe offense rolling.
After drawing a walk to lead off the fourth inning, Kipnis made a mad dash for second base, sliding in for a steal and igniting a four-run push for the Tribe. Combined with a solid start from Zach McAllister, that outburst against Weaver proved to be the difference in a 5-2 victory in the opener of a three-game series at Angel Stadium.
"Hopefully, this is something that snowballs into something great for us," said Nick Swisher. "We're coming toward the end of the season. We've got some guys starting to get hot right now. This thing ain't over. There's no doubt about that."
Swisher played a key role in the win, which improved Cleveland's record to 4-3 with two games to play on the current road trip. Typically, the Tribe's first baseman, Swisher spent most of the night in right field and used his arm to initiate a crucial double play in the bottom of the fourth inning. In the ninth, he also belted his 14th home run of the season (a solo shot) to provide some offensive insurance.
This night was not hardly a one-man show, though. The Indians provided the kind of performance that manager Terry Francona has discussed throughout the season. Cleveland's hitters kept the line moving, getting on base, moving runners and delivering hits in key situations.
Francona enjoyed watching it all unfold.
"We did a really good job," Francona said. "I thought tonight was the best game we've played in a while. We played a good game of baseball."
The Indians remain in the hunt for a postseason spot -- the club is 4 1/2 games back of the A's in the race for the second Wild Card spot -- with only six weeks left on the schedule. Following a loss in Oakland on Sunday, it was Kipnis who referred to this as "go time," adding that Cleveland needed to cut out the excuses and make up ground in the standings.
It seemed fitting then that, following three overpowering innings from Weaver, Kipnis set the rally in motion by drawing the free pass.
"It's your job as a pitcher not to have those blow up innings," Weaver said. "It started with that leadoff walk and escalated from there."
After the Indians All-Star second baseman stole second -- his 23rd swipe of the year -- he promptly scored when Carlos Santana ripped a pitch from Weaver into right field for a single. Santana sprinted to third base on a double from Asdrubal Cabrera and later crossed the plate on a sacrifice fly from Jason Giambi, pushing the Tribe ahead, 2-0.
Three pitches later, Indians third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall sent a 1-2 pitch from Weaver sailing over right field and into the stands for a two-run home run. The blast, which staked Cleveland to a 4-0 advantage, was Chisenhall's seventh of the season, giving the Indians a Major League-leading 12 players with at least that many homers.
"That was a good swing," Francona said of Chisenhall's shot. "That was exciting to see."
In the fourth inning, Weaver labored through 37 pitches among the nine batters he faced. That was a stark contrast to the right-hander's first three innings, during which he allowed just one hit and needed just 36 pitches to cruise through 11 hitters. On the night, Weaver finished with four runs allowed on eight hits in six frames, ending with five strikeouts, two walks and one hit-by-pitch.
Entering Monday, Weaver had gone 6-1 with a 1.31 ERA in his previous eight starts against the Indians.
"It was one of those nights where when we hit the ball hard, we got hits," Giambi said. "A lot of times against him, you can hit the ball hard, but you don't get a lot for it."
McAllister was originally slated to start on Tuesday, but he switched rotation slots with righty Danny Salazar and moved up to Monday's game. Over 6 1/3 innings, McAllister held the Angels to one run on five hits and chalked up five strikeouts against two walks.
"I felt like I was able to make some pitches when I needed to," McAllister said. "Early in the game, I felt really good. I just felt like, after that, I didn't have the command of the fastball the way I would've liked."
The damage might have been worse had it not been for Swisher's defensive gem in right field.
In the fourth inning, Erick Aybar led off with a double and scored on a base hit to right from Mark Trumbo, trimming the Tribe's lead to 4-1. Hank Conger followed with a double of his own to right field, allowing Trumbo to easily advance to third base.
With one out and runners on second and third base, Chris Nelson lifted a pitch from McAllister to right. As Swisher made the catch, Trumbo tagged up and bolted for the plate. The right fielder came up firing to catcher Yan Gomes, who made a sweep tag just in time, nabbing the Angels first baseman on the jersey as he slid home.
"I closed my eyes and just chucked it," Swisher said with a laugh.
Aside from the solo home run closer Chris Perez allowed to Trumbo in the ninth -- too little, too late in the grand scheme of things -- the Cleveland bullpen finished what McAllister started. Of course, it was the offensive flurry against Weaver that paved the way to the win column.
Kipnis' stolen base served as the catalyst.
"That was huge," Swisher said. "That's something we all wish we could do, man."