A week shy of his 27th birthday, Matt Shoemaker finally gets his shot in the majors, and it comes against one of the AL's worst offenses.
Filling in for the Los Angeles Angels ace, Shoemaker makes his major league debut Friday night against the visiting Seattle Mariners.
The Angels (74-78) announced Thursday that Jered Weaver had been scratched from his scheduled start due to right forearm tightness he first experienced Sept. 9. He is only expected to miss one start, but it gives Shoemaker an opportunity to debut against a Seattle team batting an AL-worst .239 this year and scoring only 3.1 runs per game since Aug. 23.
The right-hander went 11-13 with a 4.64 ERA in 29 starts for Triple-A Salt Lake this year - his sixth in the minors. He allowed two earned runs or less in each of his last five starts, though he hasn't pitched since Aug. 30.
"It gives Shoe an opportunity to show what he can do at the big league level," general manager Jerry Dipoto told the Angels' official website. "We called him up for a reason. He fits very well down the stretch and in Triple-A. He's had nothing but consistent durability throughout his minor league career."
Shoemaker opposes Erasmo Ramirez (5-2, 4.98). The right-hander lost his only start of the year against the Angels on Aug. 24, allowing three runs - two earned - in 6 2-3 innings of a 5-1 home defeat. He's 0-2 with a 3.55 ERA in two career starts against them.
Ramirez is running into a hot Angels team and coming off a shaky start in St. Louis on Sunday, when he allowed five runs and eight hits in four innings of a 12-2 loss.
The Angels have won seven of nine and are a major league-best 19-7 since Aug. 23, a stretch which began with a three-game sweep of the Mariners. Their 3.02 ERA is the best in the AL since the start of that series.
Josh Hamilton has keyed the offense during this hot stretch, including Wednesday in a 5-4 win over Oakland as he hit the game-tying two-run homer in the ninth inning and the go-ahead sacrifice fly in the 11th.
The right fielder is batting .328 since Aug. 9, bumping his season average from .217 to .245.
"I feel like I am having good at-bats even if the results aren't always there," Hamilton said. "If I can build off this last month of quality at-bats, it would be good."
A win would bring the Angels within three games of .500 for the first time since July 20 when they were 46-49.
The Mariners (67-86) are in danger of falling 20 games under .500 for the first time this season. They've lost nine of 11 but beat Detroit 8-0 on Wednesday and nearly defeated the AL Central leader again Thursday, leading in the seventh inning only to lose 5-4.
"We're not looking for moral victories, but I am very appreciative of the way these guys are fighting and stepping up to these teams at this time of the year," manager Eric Wedge told the team's official website.
Kyle Seager broke a 2-for-40 slump with two hits Thursday, and Dustin Ackley had a three-run homer after going 10 straight games without an extra-base hit.
The Angels lead the season series 9-7 and will win it with one victory in this three-game set.