CLEVELAND -- Derek Lowe is typically the first player on the field each inning on the days he starts. The easygoing Indians starter bounces up the dugout steps and bounds to the mound, moving as quickly as he snaps off sinkers.
So naturally, when Tribe shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera popped a pitch up to right field with two outs in the fifth inning on Sunday afternoon, Lowe figured it was time to head back to the hill. The big righty turned toward the bench, started to remove his jacket ... and then heard the crowd inside Progressive Field erupt in cheers.
"I figured something had happened," Lowe said following the Indians' 4-0 win over the Angels. "That was a big break."
Angels right fielder Torii Hunter -- a man with nine Gold Gloves in his trophy case -- lost Cabrera's ball in the sun. The error allowed the Tribe to score its first two runs, which were enough to make Lowe's outstanding effort hold up for a victory that sealed the team's first series win at home of the season.
It also aided Cleveland in defeating Ervin Santana, who spun a no-hitter against the Indians last July 27.
"I wasn't shocked. I was happy," Indians manager Manny Acta said of Hunter's error. "It's a very tough sky and he's a Gold Glover -- great outfielder. But, the mighty sun was on our side today and we were thankful for it."
This game, however, was not about Hunter's gaffe. Santana was also a secondary storyline, especially considering his bid for another no-no was lost six pitches into the first inning, when Michael Brantley sliced a single into left field.
This contest was all about Lowe, who turned in a vintage performance to wrap up a strong first month with the Tribe.
Over 7 2/3 innings, Lowe kept the laboring Angels (7-15) off the scoreboard, inducing 14 outs via ground balls and scattering just three singles along the way. Lowe struck out one and walked two, exiting the contest with runners on the corners with two outs in the eighth. Relievers Vinnie Pestano and Chris Perez did the rest, slamming the door on a potential Angels rally.
"Lowe was outstanding," Acta said. "They couldn't do anything but beat the ball in the ground and that's a good-hitting ballclub. That's what he does. He was cruising. His pitch count was terrific after the sixth inning. He just continued to make pitches the whole day. It was just a very good pitching performance."
Lowe gave the American League Central-leading Indians (11-9) the kind of showing the team hoped to see when it swung a trade with the Braves to acquire the veteran right-hander in October. Lowe was coming off a career-worst 9-17 showing for Atlanta in his 15th season in the big leagues, but Cleveland's evaluators felt the sinker-savvy pitcher still had plenty to offer.
In five April starts with his new ballclub -- the fifth organization of his long career -- all the 38-year-old Lowe has done is fashion a 4-1 record with a 2.27 ERA. The solid opening has come at an opportune time, because Tribe starters Justin Masterson, Ubaldo Jimenez and Josh Tomlin have all fought inconsistency so far.
Lowe's strong April comes after he ended last season 0-5 with an 8.75 ERA during Atlanta's collapse last September.
"I've never let one year roll into the next," Lowe said. "You're not out here trying to prove that last year was the way you're going to pitch. It's not in any part of my thought process. You go out here, and we're in first place, and you try to go out there and keep us there."
Since joining the Indians, Lowe has brought more than just a string of solid outings.
"This guy is hopping around every day full of energy," Acta said, "like he's a 23-year-old who just got called up. It's great, because he rubs off on the other guys. He's always upbeat and never has that attitude that he's been up here for 16 years -- been here, done that."
Pestano agreed that Lowe's attitude has been a welcome addition to the clubhouse.
"He's almost like a big kid out there," Pestano said. "When you sign a veteran like that, you don't really know in the offseason what his personality is going to bring to the team. As far as the staff, he's always cracking jokes, keeping it loose and I think that helps us."
In his latest effort, Lowe outlasted Santana (0-5), who was charged with two unearned runs in his seven innings. Both runs came courtesy of the would-be fifth-inning flyout, which tilted the contest in the Tribe's favor. With two outs and runners on first and second base, Cabrera lofted a pitch high into right field, where Hunter readied himself for a seemingly easy catch.
As the ball descended rapidly, it quickly became clear that Hunter lost sight of it. As the outfielder crouched and shielded himself with his glove, the baseball dropped to the grass and allowed both Aaron Cunningham and Brantley to score. It was ruled an error -- only the 36th in 4,525 career chances for Hunter -- and gave Cleveland a 2-0 advantage.
The Indians added a pair of insurance runs in the eighth inning, but the damage had been done.
"You can't beat the sun," Hunter said. "I've been playing this game for a long time. It seems like the sun wins. Whenever you lose the ball in the sun, you can't defeat God's light."
It was a big break for the Indians, and the club took advantage.
Lowe hardly minded keeping his jacket on for a few minutes before taking the mound again.
"That was awesome," Lowe said. "It was a fun game to be a part of. There's not a lot of games throughout the season where you feel you can throw any pitch at any time and get a good result."