Matt Palmer(notes) started the season playing for Triple-A Salt Lake without a major league win to his name. Since his promotion, however, he’s been one of the Los Angeles Angels’ best options on the mound.
Palmer looks to continue his season-opening unbeaten streak by winning a fifth straight start Tuesday night when the Angels continue a four-game road series against the AL West rival Seattle Mariners.
Palmer (4-0, 3.38 ERA) made his major league debut at 29 years old Aug. 16, and he went 0-2 with an 8.53 ERA in three starts with San Francisco in 2008 before getting sent back to the minors.
He’s looked like a different pitcher with the Angels (19-18), winning his first four starts while holding opponents to a .168 batting average, first among starters in the AL. On the Los Angeles roster, only Joe Saunders(notes) has more wins (five) than Palmer, who’s made four fewer starts than the left-hander.
Palmer retired 19 straight batters to finish his complete-game, 8-4 win over Boston on Wednesday. He gave up four runs in the first two innings before settling down and finishing the five-hitter. He struck out eight, including five of the last seven batters he faced.
“It’s amazing. The story writes itself,” said Palmer, who has never faced Seattle. “But I don’t have a chance to pinch myself. I don’t have a chance to sit here and relax. I’ve got to pitch hard every game. If I don’t, then I’m out. That’s just the way it is. So I’ll keep going hard as long as I can and try to impress and try to keep my team where they need to be.”
Doing so would be easier if the Angels can deliver another offensive performance like Monday’s. After suffering its first shutout of the season at Texas on Sunday, Los Angeles bounced back with 15 hits in a 10-6 win over Seattle. Torii Hunter(notes) hit a three-run double in a five-run fifth inning and Kendry Morales(notes) homered twice as the Angels snapped a three-game skid.
The Mariners (18-21) won two of three in a weekend series against Boston, but Monday’s defeat dropped them to 3-11 since May 4. That slump prompted manager Don Wakamatsu to bench cleanup hitter Adrian Beltre(notes) for the first time this season Monday.
Beltre, hitless in his last 13 at-bats, is batting .211 with two home runs and 15 RBIs in 38 games.
“No one cares about this club or works harder than him,” Wakamatsu said. “I just think the last couple days, the way he’s been going about his at-bats, I think he’s trying a little bit too hard. This lets him sit back a little bit, get some work in with Alan (Cockrell, Seattle’s hitting coach) … and get back in there.”
Beltre hopes to get back on track behind Tuesday’s starter, Felix Hernandez(notes) (4-2, 3.53), who did his own rebounding Thursday. The right-hander bounced back from his two worst outings of the year to hold Texas to four hits in seven scoreless innings. The Seattle bullpen gave up three runs in the ninth inning of the 3-2 defeat.
Hernandez is 3-4 with a 4.83 ERA in 12 career starts against Los Angeles. Angels outfielder Gary Matthews Jr.(notes), a switch hitter, is 15 for 38 (.395) with three homers, three doubles and 12 strikeouts in his career against Hernandez.
The Angels still will be without Vladimir Guerrero(notes) on Tuesday, but they got good news about their slugging right fielder Monday. Manager Mike Scioscia said Guerrero is on track to begin a rehabilitation assignment in the minors Thursday or Friday and could be activated to return to Los Angeles’ lineup as soon as Monday.