Matt Shoemaker was brilliant Thursday for the Los Angeles Angels, tossing 6⅔ innings of no-hit ball. It came at a time when his franchise was reeling after losing powerful righthander Garrett Richards for the rest of the season because of a torn left patella tendon.
It’s too much to ask Shoemaker and other Angels starters to perform like that the rest of the way, but in order for them to absorb the loss of one of the best pitchers in the game this season, the entire rotation might have to raise its game a little.
“You might not be able to replace that,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia told reporters, “but that doesn’t mean we’re not going to be able to reach our goal as a cumulative pitching staff.”
Can the other team in Los Angeles hold off Oakland and win the American League West? Of course it can. The Angels already are one of nice surprises of the season, remaining in contention and, on Monday, moving into first place in the division for the first time since May 15, 2011. Not having Richards to cause matchup problems in the postseason will be the biggest loss, but Richards is not the reason why the Angels have been a force.
Offensively, they get plenty of thrust from one the best all-around players in the game in Mike Trout. They aren’t getting the offensive firepower they sought when adding Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton in recent years, but it’s still a productive offense that entered the weekend second in the league in runs scored and third in on base-plus-slugging percentage. Outfielder Kole Calhoun has formed a nice partnership with Trout at the top of the Angels order. The Angels on Thursday dealt for second baseman Gordon Beckham from the White Sox to help against lefthanded pitching.
In addition to Richards, the Angels also are suffering from the loss of rookie Tyler Skaggs, who is out for a year because of elbow surgery. But Shoemaker, C.J. Wilson and Jared Weaver already are double-digit winners this season, with Weaver and Wilson having postseason experience. They have only used six starters all season (the Twins have used 12) but that might have to change.
The Angels called up lefthander Wade LeBlanc, who has started 68 games in his career, to replace Richards on the roster. They also have righthander Chris Volstad (123 MLB starts) and the very veteran righthander Randy Wolf (372) on simmer in the minors. General Manager Jerry Dipoto could explore adding a starting pitcher before the Aug. 31 deadline, and owner Arte Moreno will likely OK any salary addition. But there might not be a lot out there.
“Between now and Sept. 1, we’ll be as open as we can be,” Dipoto said. “But we’re realistic about what may be out there.”
That’s OK, the Angels have proved that they are a complete team that is headed to the postseason anyway. Just keep Trout healthy.
The offensive MVP for the Tigers this year has not been Miguel Cabrera. It’s Victor Martinez, who leads the team in home runs and RBI and whose .391 on-base percentage entering Saturday was the best of any regular.
His presence keeps teams from pitching around Cabrera. First-year manager Brad Ausmus said of Martinez: “The focus is unparalleled. His work ethic, the passion which he goes about the art of hitting, I didn’t know anything about. I haven’t seen another player that can match him.”
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Cleveland entered Saturday five games back of a wild-card spot. The Indians don’t look like they have enough to make a late charge, but they are not giving up. Especially manager Terry Francona, who will manage his way to three-hour games the rest of the season.
Francona used 13 relievers in the three-game series against the Twins, matching up right-for-right and left-for-left. He really doesn’t have a rotation of pitchers known for going deep into games.
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Billy Butler has played well at first base in place of Eric Hosmer, who is recovering from a fractured right hand. But Hosmer is a key cog in the Royals’ playoff push. Hosmer hasn’t swung a bat since July 31 and is scheduled to have a magnetic resonance imaging exam Monday.
So former Twins slugger Josh Willingham will continue to fill the designated hitter role for Kansas City.
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The White Sox aren’t done with presenting young mashers. Avisail Garcia, whom they received from Detroit in a trade last year, has missed most of the season with a torn labrum and avulsion fracture in his left shoulder.
He’s back, and he hit a two-run home run Wednesday in a loss to Baltimore. But he had six RBI in his first five games since returning from the disabled list.
Three observations …
• Too bad for the Reds. They worked hard to try to land Cuban Rusney Castillo, but the money got too big for them, and he ended up with the Red Sox for $72.5 million.
• Jordan Schafer might be faster than Ben Revere.
• I once thought Gordon Beckham would be a pain in the Twins’ sides for years, but he never matched the hype or built off his promising rookie year in 2009.
... and two predictions
• The Tigers and Athletics will play in the wild-card game.
• The Twins will go 3-4 on their road trip this week to Kansas City and Baltimore.