Shoemaker putting his heart, iron will on display

ANAHEIM — From Cedar Rapids to Rancho Cucamonga to Arkansas to Salt Lake, Matt Shoemaker just wanted to get here — and stay here. Never in his wildest dreams could he envision being included in the same sentence with Nolan Ryan.

But there it was, on Sunday, Shoemaker and Ryan linked by Angels history — three consecutive outings of at least seven innings holding the opposition scoreless, the latest by Shoemaker in an 8-1 romp that sent the Athletics home reeling.

“It’s an honor to be mentioned with that name,” Shoemaker said when asked about the Hall of Famer. “It’s pretty special. I’ll just try to keep getting better.”

With seven scoreless innings finishing the Athletics in a decisive four-game sweep, Shoemaker — the guy nobody really wanted out of high school or college — joined the immortal Ryan, the most recent Angels pitcher to turn the trick, in 1976 and 1977. That was a decade before Shoemaker was born.

“When he’s on that mound, he thinks he’s Nolan Ryan,” said manager Mike Scisocia, a Ryan contemporary. “He pitches with confidence.”

Not far from the Santa Anita and Hollywood Park tracks where another Shoemaker, Bill, made his legend as arguably the greatest of all jockeys, the Angels are breaking free down the stretch with the confident stride of Secretariat. Just don’t mention any five-game American League West leads on Sept. 1 within earshot of Scioscia.

“The standings are a distraction,” Scioscia said. “We’ve got a long way to go.”

Imagine how distracting the standings are to the A’s. The reigning division champs led by four games before going on a 6-14 run that coincides with the Angels’ 15-4 spree.

No individual, not even the peerless Mike Trout, has played a more significant role in the transformation of the Angels than Shoemaker, who has eased the pain of Garrett Richards’ loss to knee surgery.

Shoemaker is 14-4 with a 3.14 ERA, and he has done this in just 17 starts and six relief appearances.

“I played in the Minor Leagues behind him,” said Trout, who hit a career-best 31st homer and had three RBIs to reach 97, two fewer than AL leader Jose Abreu of the White Sox. “He’s tough to hit. It’s fun to play behind him. He works fast.”

Born, raised and educated in Michigan, this Shoemaker has the tiny one’s heart and iron will inside a significantly larger frame.

“Matt’s been a keystone to our rotation,” Scioscia said. “He’s gotten an opportunity, made the most of it. It’s good to see a kid work so hard and have success.”

Departing Angel Stadium in a deep offensive funk, the A’s are hoping the newly acquired Adam Dunn can give them a lift with a few of his awe-inspiring shots.

On paper the A’s seemingly had the edge on the mound in each of the four games against the Angels, but down they went in dizzying succession: Sonny Gray, Jon Lester, Jeff Samardzija and Scott Kazmir. The Angels prevailed with C.J. Wilson, Jered Weaver, Cory Rasmus (accompanied by seven fellow relievers) and Shoemaker.

With his buddy, Richards, out until sometime next season, Shoemaker has given the Angels a lights-out starter to go with the ace, Weaver, lefties Wilson and Hector Santiago, and a tag team of relievers rounding out an unorthodox but highly efficient rotation.

“It was a huge series for us in regards to the playoffs and the AL West,” Shoemaker said, “but we’ve got a month to go.

For a guy who wasn’t even drafted, signing as a free agent out of Eastern Michigan University in 2008, Shoemaker has come a long way — and we don’t mean from Ypsilanti and Trenton, Mich., to Southern California.

The organization’s Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2011, he didn’t make his Major League debut until last season, working five scoreless innings on Sept. 20 in an emergency start against the Mariners.

He was not in the rotation at the season’s outset, but the struggles of Santiago opened a door that Shoemaker blasted through.

If the All-Star teams were being selected today, Angels players would be lobbying for Shoemaker with all the passion they devoted on Richards’ behalf before he was overlooked in the process despite having some of the game’s best numbers. He’s on crutches with a 13-4 record, 2.61 ERA and 164 strikeouts in 168 2/3 innings.

Shoemaker has kept the Richards beat going.

Over the past three starts, at Boston and at home against the Marlins and Athletics, Shoemaker has not yielded a run in 21 2/3 innings. The opposition has had eight hits and three walks, striking out 22 times.

His streak of 23 1/3 scoreless innings is the second longest, behind Bob Lee, in franchise history.

Shoemaker has had one bad start in 17. The Royals produced 11 hits and eight runs in Kansas City on June 27. Since then he has a 2.18 ERA across 63 2/3 innings, racking up 62 strikeouts while issuing nine walks.

Those numbers are positively Richards-like.

“It’s so much fun,” Shoemaker said. “It’s a good group of guys. It’s a blast. I always try to be aggressive — attack the hitters. I’d like to do that my whole career. I just want to keep it going.”

Although he doesn’t have Richards’ high-90s heat, Shoemaker has everything else. He gets it up to 94 mph and complements the gas with a variety of breaking balls. He relies on movement and precision, in style more like Weaver than Richards — with the intensely competitive drive of both teammates.

“Split, fastball, slider, curveball,” said catcher Chris Iannetta, identifying Shoemaker’s best pitches on Sunday after supporting him with a homer and two singles. “Really good effort.”

This Shoe fits, and what a ride it’s been.

8 Angels Arms Annihilate A’s in Anaheim

Final Score in Anaheim: Angels 2 Athletics 0

Yoslan Herrera was the pitcher of record when the Angels scored two improbable runs with two out in the bottom of the fourth inning but it took eight bullpen arms to shutout the Oakland Athletics in Anaheim on an electric night where the man Billy Beane traded the future for, Jeff Samardzija, was as unhittable as any pitcher the Halos have seen all season.

The Angels got three shutout innings from reliever Cory Rasmus in his debut as a starting pitcher. Just up from the minors, Michael Roth began the fourth inning allowing two baserunners. A critical strikeout allowed Mike Scioscia to have Roth then intentionally load the bases to hopefully get a groundout, Roth would not finish what he started.

A’s manager Bob Melvin pinch-hit Johnny Gomes for Josh Reddick (mind you this is in the FOURTH inning) and so Scioscia brought in Yoslan Herrera, a pitcher most Angels fans did not even know was on the team. Herrera got a grounder up the middle that turned into a double play that ended the only offensive threat the A’s would muster in the game.

In the bottom of the fourth Albert Pujols got a base hit and with two out Howie Kendrick hit a grounder to the guy on Oakland with the big glasses who looks like an idiot. Well he fielded like an idiot and threw a routine toss to 1B off the field and it was 2B and 3B with two outs and Erick Aybar at the plate. Boom – base hit to Gomes in RF who couldn’t dream of throwing out the runner at home. That was all the Halos would need but Samardzija would let another in on a wild pitch. Wow. The ball bounced our way tonight and gave the Halos a chance to sweep their division rival tomorrow afternoon with Shoebacca on the hill.

Thirteen straight batters were retired by Halo relievers from the Gomes double play on – Fernando Salas, Jason Grilli, Kevin Jepsen and Joe Smith each pitched 1-2-3 innings. The string would be broken when Huston Street allowed a leadoff baserunner, but the Halos closer got three straight outs to Light up the Halo.

No easy way for Angels to replace Richards

ANAHEIM — Angels manager Mike Scioscia said there are “a couple of ways we can go” for Saturday’s start against the A’s, but “we’re not going to commit to anything right now.” An announcement will probably come Friday, but nothing was official on Thursday because Scioscia wanted to see how much of his bullpen he would need before then and, frankly, there is no clear-cut solution to begin with.

This much is certain: Garrett Richards‘ now-vacant rotation spot is a major issue for the Angels, on Saturday and in the month that will follow.

It’ll come up a minimum of five more times, even if Scioscia uses off-days on Monday and Sept. 25 to juggle the order. Wade LeBlanc gave up six runs in 3 1/3 innings in Richards’ spot on Monday, then was designated for assignment, cleared waivers and was outrighted to Triple-A on Thursday, allowing the Angels to preserve some much-needed starting-pitching depth.

LeBlanc can’t be an option for Saturday, however, because it hasn’t been 10 days since he was sent to the Minors. So, below is a look at where the Angels can turn to fill the void left by Richards’ torn patellar tendon.

Outside help: Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto finds himself in a very difficult predicament in his hopes to bring in a starting pitcher. As the team with the best record in the Majors, the Angels have to sit back while other clubs get first dibs on players placed on waivers (American League players have to slip through 13 teams, National League players have to slip through 28). Typically, the only players who get all the way down the waiver wire are those who either aren’t all that good or are owed a lot of money beyond this season.

And therein lies the other problem — the Angels can’t sign players with a lot of money tied to 2015 because of luxury-tax concerns. They already have more than $175 million tied to next season in their Competitive Balance Tax payroll, which takes into account the average annual value of contracts. The tax threshold is $189 million, and it’s basically been the Angels’ spending limit the last couple of years.

That’s why Bartolo Colon of the Mets ($10 million AAV), Scott Feldman of the Astros ($10 million AAV) and Mark Buehrle of the Blue Jays ($14.5 million AAV) are pipe dreams without salary relief. Trevor Cahill of the D-backs is intriguing, with an AAV of $6.1 million, but he has an ERA of 4.98 and a walk rate of 4.2. The Angels also dealt six prospects from an already thin farm system to acquire relievers Joe Thatcher and Huston Street in July, so they also can’t offer up much talent in a trade.

Teams have until 9 p.m. PT on Sunday to add players who would be eligible for the postseason roster.

LH Michael Roth: The 24-year-old is already on the 40-man roster, is lined up to start on Saturday and has dominated, with a 3.02 ERA in 50 2/3 innings since being outrighted back to the Minors. That, however, was in Double-A. And it came despite only 33 strikeouts and 21 walks. Roth has a 6.75 ERA in 26 2/3 innings in the Majors from 2013-14.

LH Randy Wolf: The 38-year-old would have to be added to the 40-man roster and he hasn’t necessarily been lights-out at Triple-A Salt Lake, posting a 4.99 ERA and a 1.47 WHIP in six starts. But he’s a veteran, with 15 years of Major League experience under his belt. And the A’s have only a .665 OPS against lefties in August.

RH Caleb Clay: Clay’s next turn for Triple-A Salt Lake just so happens to come on Saturday. That’s about all he has going for him right now, though. The 26-year-old has a 5.09 ERA in 11 starts in the Pacific Coast League, allowing 10 hits per nine innings with a strikeout rate of just 5.3.

Piece it together: Cory Rasmus, who has a 2.68 ERA in 24 Major League appearances, may provide two to three innings. Hector Santiago, who has a 1.19 ERA in his last four starts, pitched Wednesday and may be able to give Scioscia an inning or two of relief by Saturday. Fernando Salas, who has allowed just three earned runs in his last 24 innings, can provide a couple of innings. And a back end of the bullpen that has been one of the best in baseball since the start of July can take it from there, with an off-day following on Monday.

This would be a little easier to do with expanded rosters in September, and very draining for a bullpen before then.

Final: Angels 6, Marlins 1

Final: Angels 6, Marlins 1




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ANAHEIM – Hector Santiago has quietly become a key member of the Angels’ rotation.

Santiago pitched the Angels to a 6-1 victory over the Miami Marlins on Wednesday night, maintaining their one-game lead before a showdown series against the second-place Oakland Athletics starting Thursday.

All the runs the Angels needed came from Mike Trout, whose two RBI included his 30th homer, equaling his career high.

Santiago, who gave up one run in 5 2/3 innings, has a 1.46 ERA since the All-Star break. Since Santiago was briefly demoted to Triple-A in late May, he has a 2.45 ERA.

The only hole in his resume during that time is a failure to get past the sixth inning, but that could be more Manager Mike Scioscia’s comfort level with him than his own fatigue.

Santiago was at just 72 pitches when he started the sixth Wednesday, with a three-run lead. It took him 13 pitches to get the first two hitters, then after allowing a hit and a walk, Scioscia pulled him with 93 pitches. Santiago has cracked 100 pitches just once since returning to the majors in June, when he threw 101 on July 10.

Despite Santiago’s solid work, the Angels had lost his previous four starts because of modest offense.

On Wednesday, they unloaded for four runs in the third and fourth innings against Miami ace Henderson Alvarez.

Four of the first five Angels hitters in the third had hits, including a Josh Hamilton RBI double off the center field fence.

In the fourth, Gordon Beckham hit his first homer since joining the Angels. Beckham, who also singled, had been hitless in his first seven at-bats with the Angels.

Trout, who has 94 RBI, drove in a run in the third and belted a homer to straightaway center in the seventh.

With the second 30-homer season of his career, he became just the fifth player in American League history to have multiple 30-homer seasons by their age 22 season. The others are Jimmie Foxx, Ted Williams, Alex Rodriguez and Jose Canseco.

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Angels-A’s rivalry shifts to Anaheim for four games

Angels-A’s rivalry shifts to Anaheim for four games




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Angels manager Mike Scioscia, left, talks with outgoing baseball commissioner Bud Selig before Wednesday night's game against the Marlins.


ANAHEIM – Angels fans are going to get their chance this weekend.

Much was made in the media last weekend, during the Angels-Athletics series in Oakland, about the loud and raucous atmosphere at the O.co Coliseum.

Starting Thursday, the A’s will visit Angel Stadium for a four-game series.

“I played in Oakland and their fans are awesome,” said Huston Street, who came up with the A’s. “They put the fan in fanatic. You respect that as a player. You want your fans to be that way. Since I’ve been here in Anaheim, the fans are no different. This has been a lively place to play. … They have been packing them in here for a long time. As an opposing player coming into Angel Stadium, we felt it.”

This is obviously a critical series between the top two teams in the American League West.

While the A’s gave the ball to No. 6 starter Drew Pomeranz on Wednesday, just to push their top four starters into the Angels series, the Angels are still looking for one more starter.

Saturday will be the second turn for the spot vacated by injured Garrett Richards, and at the moment the Angels haven’t named a starter. Wade LeBlanc, who started in that spot Monday, was designated for assignment.

Of the pitchers currently on the roster, the only option is Cory Rasmus. Scioscia said Rasmus is a candidate, even though he hasn’t thrown more than 51 pitches in the majors this season. Rasmus has a 2.68 ERA in 37 innings out of the Angels’ bullpen.

The most likely options remain veteran Randy Wolf, who is pitching at Triple-A, and prospect Michael Roth, who is at Double-A.

Chris Volstad, who was a less likely choice all along, had to be scratched because of elbow discomfort this week, presumably eliminating him.

BUDGET CRUNCH

The Angels still may find a pitcher from outside the organization, but if they pick up someone who is signed for 2015, they are going to bump up against the Competitive Balance Tax threshold of $189 million.

That could be one of the impediments to acquiring a pitcher such as Bartolo Colon or Scott Feldman, each of whom has a CBT salary of $10 million in 2015.

The Angels are likely to have $140 million committed to 10 players, presuming they pick up Street’s option. If they offer arbitration to all six eligible players, that adds about another $20 million. Salaries of pre-arbitration players, benefits and performances bonuses add another $20 million.

They could reduce that figure with trades and non-tending arbitration eligible players.


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Final: Angels 8, Marlins 2

Final: Angels 8, Marlins 2




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The Angels' Mike Trout and Kole Calhoun celebrate after scoring on a single by Albert Pujols as part of a five-run fourth inning against the Marlins in Anaheim on Tuesday.


ANAHEIM – At this point, the exploits of Angels right-hander Matt Shoemaker must be described by terms more all-encompassing than the likes of surprising or unexpected.

No one could have predicted what the 27-year-old rookie has done in 2014.

A career minor-leaguer at this time last year, Shoemaker shut the Miami Marlins down Tuesday at Angel Stadium as the Angels rolled to an 8-2 win and regained the lead in the American League West.

He was in control throughout Tuesday’s contest, allowing two singles and two walks, nothing else, while striking out six Marlins with his splitter over seven scoreless frames. He needed 96 pitches to get 21 outs, lowering his ERA to 3.33.

He has won 13 games, leading all MLB rookies. The Angels’ rookie record for victories in a season is 14.

Tuesday, the Angels attacked hard-throwing right-hander Nathan Eovaldi early. They scored a run on three first-inning singles and then pounced for five runs in the fourth, bouncing Eovaldi.

With one out in that frame, the Angels strung together six straight hits, capped by an Albert Pujols single. Four of the hits were singles, and it would have been five had Mike Trout not stretched a practically routine single into a double.

Trout, Pujols and third baseman David Freese recorded three-hit nights.

Because of Oakland’s loss in Houston, the Angels (78-53) regained the division lead and the best record in baseball.

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Final: Marlins 7, Angels 1

Final: Marlins 7, Angels 1




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ANAHEIM – If Garrett Richards’ impending absence from the Angels’ stretch run wasn’t obvious enough already, the man who replaced him Monday against the Miami Marlins made it all the more so.

In his first start for the Angels, left-hander Wade LeBlanc allowed as many baserunners as he got outs. He lasted just 3 1/3 innings and allowed six runs in the Angels’ 7-1 blowout loss at Angel Stadium.

LeBlanc got through the first two innings unscathed, technically, but the trouble was nearly unceasing. Hard-hit balls abounded.

Then he opened the third by walking the Marlins’ No. 8 hitter, Donovan Solano, and the damage began. Manager Mike Scioscia removed LeBlanc after he allowed three straight hits with one out in the fourth inning.

His replacement, right-hander Cory Rasmus, promptly gave up a three-run homer to Giancarlo Stanton that made it 7-0, and the rout was on.

The Angels (77-53) couldn’t figure out young Marlins right-hander Jarred Cosart until the eighth inning, when they scored their only run on an RBI double by Kole Calhoun.

Shortstop Erick Aybar had three singles, but no other Angel reached base more than once.

The Angels again hold the same record as the Oakland Athletics, putting the teams in a tie atop the American League West – and atop all of baseball.

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Oakland A’s vs Anaheim Angels Series Preview

Starting this evening the Oakland A’s start a critical three-game series against the Anaheim Angels.

After dropping eight of their last 10 games the Oakland A’s find themselves out of first place in the A.L. West in the first time in a long time. That losing streak, combined with the Angels winnning eight of their last 10 games is how a four-game lead in the division had disappeared so fast.

The Angels are coming off of a four-game sweep of the Boston Red Sox in Boston, so they may be a bit weary from travel. For the Oakland A’s, hopefully yesterday’s day off will prove helpful and has given them an extra day to prepare and work out some issues with hitting and pitching as well.

Can the bats for the Oakland A’s come back alive? In their last 10 games they have managed to score more than three runs just three times. Two of those resulted in wins. Also, two of those three times came in their last series against the Mets as well.

A couple of guys that are struggling and need to pick it up are Brandon Moss and Derek Norris. Moss is hitless in his last four games (although he walked six times in that span) and only has four RBI’s in the month of August. Derek Norris has also registered just five hits in his last 10 games. Those hits were spread through just three games though and he has gone hitless in seven of his last 10 games.

Here are the pitching probables for this upcoming three-game series.

Game 1- Sonny Gray (12-7, 2.99 ERA) vs Hector Santiago (3-7, 3.46 ERA)

Sonny Gray has struggled as of late and in four starts in the month of August has posted a 0-4 record to go along with a 4.94 ERA. That includes four earned on eight hits in his last start. He was also tagged by the Royals for six runs back on August 6th.

Game 2- Jon Lester (3-1, 2.93) vs C.J. Wilson (10-8, 4.59 ERA)

The second game of the series will feature the red-hot Lester who has had 12 consecutive quality starts against Wilson who has won two consecutive games as well. Wilson has had trouble with his command throughout the season, and that was evident in his last start where he gave five free passes. Patience may be the key for the Oakland A’s against Wilson.

Game 3 – Scott Kazmir (14-5, 2.73) vs Jered Weaver (13-7, 3.70 ERA)

The series finale pits Scott Kazmir against a struggling Weaver. Weaver has not pitched into the seventh inning since July 23rd — six starts — and has issued four or more walks in three of those games. Kazmir had struggled at the end of July and into early August, but his last start against the Mets showed he is moving in the right direction. In that game he allowed just one run on four hits in six innings.

Tags: Jon Lester Oakland Athletics Scott Kazmir Sonny Gray