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With sweep in sight, Williams, bullpen come undone

Angels chase Masterson with five runs before homers bring Tribe back

CLEVELAND -- It took 11 pitches.

In that window, Jerome Williams turned a gem into an early exit, a potential three-game sweep into a bitter series-finale loss, and perhaps an extended rotation stay into an eventual demotion to the bullpen.

The Angels got Justin Masterson out of the game after a season-low 4 1/3 innings Sunday afternoon, plating five runs before the Indians' starter could record his 11th out, and Williams breezed into the sixth inning.

Then the wheels came off. Four batters plated four runs, two more scored off the bullpen in the seventh, and the Angels left Cleveland with a bitter 6-5 loss.

"Baseball is a game where you just never know what's going to happen, and that's what happened today," Williams said, the Angels losing for the seventh time in their past nine road games. "I pitched good for the first five and that sixth inning just came out of nowhere. I just didn't execute pitches when I had to and they took advantage of it."

Eleven times now, the Angels have held a three-run lead in a game and lost. Four times, they've led by five or more runs and lost. Both of those lead the Majors. They've lost 11 of their past 16 games, and in nine of those 11 losses, they led at some point.

"That's disturbing," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said after watching Williams unravel in the fifth, then J.C. Gutierrez and Nick Maronde surrender the lead in the seventh.

"Obviously the season's been pretty frustrating," Angels catcher Hank Conger said. "But our bullpen is doing their best to try to hold down leads. Physically, things are going to happen, but we just have to make sure mentally that we stay focused."

Williams, fighting for the right to remain in the rotation with Jason Vargas likely to return Tuesday, was on point through the first 5 2/3 innings, facing only one more than the minimum while striking out seven.

After back-to-back swinging strikeouts to start the sixth, he gave up a two-out single to Michael Bourn, then a two-run homer to Nick Swisher, then a walk to Jason Kipnis, then a two-run homer to Mike Aviles -- replacing shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera after he was ejected in the second inning -- and then he left the game, the Indians cutting the deficit from five to one in a span of four batters.

"He just got fuzzy and wasn't able to get the last out," Scioscia said. "Up until that point, it looked like he was in total command."

Williams has an 8.59 ERA since the start of July, giving up 35 runs in 36 2/3 innings over the course of eight starts.

"I put this on myself because I should've executed better," Williams said. "The guys came in, they tried to do their job, and unfortunately they scored. That's baseball."

The Angels' bullpen had been among the worst in baseball for the last three weeks, but the relief corps seemed to turn a corner in the first two games of this series, retiring 17 of 19 batters -- including all 11 on Saturday -- en route to back-to-back wins.

To start the seventh, Scioscia lifted lefty Buddy Boshers in favor of the right-handed Gutierrez to face switch-hitting Carlos Santana -- much better swinging against lefties from the right side of the plate -- and the Indians' catcher laced a line-drive homer over the right-field fence to tie it up.

After a walk by Lonnie Chisenhall and a single by Drew Stubbs, lefty Nick Maronde came in and gave up the go-ahead run on an up-the-middle single by the left-handed-hitting Bourn.

"We just kind of pulled together," Swisher said after his team avoided a sixth consecutive loss. "Jerome came out of the gates and he was putting it to us. We started it off with that home run. It's kind of crazy how this game works. You don't score many runs and next thing you know, four batters, four runs. This game is crazy. That's huge for us and it definitely gives us some momentum going into the road trip."

Had Williams kept it together, or the bullpen held on, the Angels would've had their first sweep against the Indians since September 2004. Instead, they fell back to 10 games below .500 and 14 games back of first place, tied with the Mariners for third in the American League West.

But this one wasn't just on the pitching.

After Masterson checked out, the Indians' bullpen held the Angels to one hit and three walks in 4 2/3 innings, completing the 180.

"It seems like the past couple weeks, our bats are hot early and then we calm down a little bit," said Mike Trout, who went 2-for-4 with a walk to extend his on-base streak to 41 games. "But we just have to go in tomorrow, take the positives out of today and turn the page."

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez.
Read More: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, J.C. Gutierrez, Jerome Williams, Mike Trout