With the AL’s best trio at the top of their rotation, the Los Angeles Angels know they could cause trouble for any team in a short playoff series.
If they don’t start getting better pitching from their other two starters, they’ll be watching the postseason on television.
The Angels continue their four-game road set with the Seattle Mariners on Tuesday night, when they’ll hope Jerome Williams(notes) can pitch like he did in his first start of 2011 - and not like his ugly relief appearance last week.
Los Angeles (72-62) knows its chances of making noise in the playoffs rest on the reliability of Jered Weaver(notes), Dan Haren(notes) and Ervin Santana(notes), and manager Mike Scioscia admitted as much by using Weaver and Santana on short rest against division-leading Texas over the weekend.
Haren and Weaver were rocked and Santana turned in a so-so outing in the team’s lone victory, leaving the Angels three games back with Joel Pineiro(notes) and Williams (1-0, 4.82 ERA) starting Monday and Tuesday in Seattle.
Pineiro gave up three runs over six innings Monday, but the two-run shot Hisanori Takahashi(notes) surrendered to Mike Carp(notes) in eighth proved the difference. That broke a 3-all tie, allowing the Mariners (57-76) to open the four-game set with a 5-3 victory that pushed Los Angeles’ deficit to 3 1/2.
Scioscia knows that particularly when one of his Big Three isn’t out there, there’s little margin for error.
“This last month is really going to hinge on our ability to generate enough offense to absorb one pitch that isn’t in the right zone,” Scioscia said. “We didn’t do that (Monday).”
The divide in the Angels’ rotation over the past few months has become staggering. Since June 24, when Weaver, Haren or Santana start, Los Angeles is 27-10 while getting a 2.76 ERA from its starter. When anyone else starts, the Angels are 8-13 with a 6.03 ERA from the starter.
That number would be even worse if not for what Williams did Aug. 21. Making his first major league start since May 2007, the right-hander held Baltimore to a run and six hits over seven innings of a 7-1 victory.
“Everything was working,” Williams said of his first win since 2005, when he pitched for the Chicago Cubs. “I was pounding the strike zone, and that’s what I do.”
He got pounded Friday at Texas in relief of Haren. Williams gave up four runs and six hits - including a three-run homer - over 1 2-3 innings.
The 24-year-old left-hander made his major league debut in the nightcap of a doubleheader last Tuesday at Cleveland, giving up six runs and nine hits - including two homers - over 5 1-3 innings. Instead of getting the kind of support the AL’s worst offense has typically provided, though, Seattle gave the left-hander plenty in a 12-7 victory.
“I’ll take it,” manager Eric Wedge said. “Vasquez didn’t quite have the command I wanted to see, but that first time out is always a mulligan. He got us a win so good for him.”
The Mariners weren’t sure if they’d be keeping Vasquez in the rotation, but seemingly saw enough in his debut that they will. Wedge confirmed over the weekend that Seattle will use a six-man rotation for the foreseeable future.