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LAA@CLE: Haren lasts eight innings, fans seven in win

CLEVELAND -- The best medicine for an ailing bullpen is less work, so Angels starter Dan Haren took things into his own hands on Saturday.

"Dan today became his own setup man," manager Mike Scioscia said.

Haren ensured the Angels wouldn't waste an early lead and suffer a walk-off loss for the third consecutive day. The right-hander stymied the Indians over eight innings and guided the Angels to their first victory in six games in a 2-1 rain-delayed win on a brisk afternoon at Progressive Field.

"He's a guy that, if you don't get him early, once he gets in a rhythm he's very tough," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "We have struggled against him for a while now."

Haren tossed 119 pitches in his eight innings and ran his career record to 4-2 against the Tribe. In 11 career outings against Cleveland, the 31-year-old has a 3.31 ERA and 70 strikeouts in 73 1/3 innings. In his last six starts against the Indians, Haren is 1-0 with a 1.41 ERA.

"I've had a good game plan against these guys the last few times," Haren said. "I feel really comfortable against them. They mounted a rally, but I got a couple of big outs."

After a rain delay at the start of the game that lasted 2 hours, 27 minutes, the Angels (7-14) grabbed an early lead in the same fashion as they did a night earlier, scratching across their first run in the first inning with a walk and two singles.

Torii Hunter then extended the lead to 2-0 with a solo homer in the fourth, the second straight game he sent a pitch into the right-field seats in the fourth inning.

Hunter now has 28 career home runs against the Indians (10-9), his second-most against any opponent. He has launched 30 against Royals pitching.

"It was a backdoor sinker," said Indians starter Jeanmar Gomez, who held Los Angeles to two runs in six innings. "He hit it very good, just like the backdoor sinker from [Justin] Masterson yesterday."

A revamped Angels lineup, with 20-year-old Mike Trout leading off and manning center field after being recalled following Friday's loss, produced just five hits. Angels hitters tallied seven strikeouts and Trout went 0-for-4 in his season debut.

"He was excited," Scioscia said. "He'll settle into the offensive part as we get going."

The Halos have scored just 11 runs in their last six games.

They provided just enough offense on Saturday, however, as Haren continued a string of strong starts by Angels pitchers. His ability to pitch deep into the game removed some of the burden on an Angels bullpen that entered the contest 0-6 with one save in seven chances.

"He really pitched against a tough lineup," Scioscia said. "They have a lot of left-handers in their lineup and make you work for every out. You couldn't have done much better than Dan did this afternoon."

One-run leads have not been safe, but new closer Scott Downs shut the door in the ninth to preserve Haren's gem. Downs replaced Jordan Walden as the closer after Walden served up a walk-off homer to Tampa Bay's Brandon Allen on Thursday.

Scioscia said Walden needed work during low-pressure situations to improve his ability to repeat pitches and demonstrate more consistency.

"When Scott gets behind, he has the ability to get back into counts, and that's important anytime you're pitching, whether you're in the closer role, setup or a starter," Scioscia said.

The closer switch is Scioscia's temporary solution for a scuffling relief corps. He doesn't appear to need a prescription for the starting rotation, which has anchored the club in the early going.

Angels starters have lasted at least six innings in 11 of their last 12 starts. They carry a 2.84 ERA during that span, but boast just a 4-4 record.

So while the starting pitching continues to deliver, the Angels continue to wait for signs of life from their offense and bullpen.

"Hopefully this sparks us," Haren said. "It would be nice to come out and score a bunch of runs [on Sunday]. Starting pitching-wise, I think we've come around. If we pitch like we're pitching right now, we're going to be in a lot of games."

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