(Photo Credit: Yardbarker.com)
While I am fully aware that the title of this is going to upset my Saunders-supporting readers out there, nine innings of good pitching doesn’t erase the nearly 400 previous innings of sub-par pitching. With that out of the way, though, there is no question that this was easily Saunders’ best performance of the season, and probably his best since May 9th of last year when he pitched a shutout against the Royals. In fact, for Saunders it was only the third complete game and second shutout of his career.
Whether over his head or not, for the Angels it was a much-needed performance. At the halfway point in the month of May, the Angels were sitting at 4-9 since the calendar flipped, and clearly they’re a team that is struggling. Pitching has been a well-documented problem, but unlike past years they don’t have the strong bullpen to fall back on. Going into Friday night’s game, the Angels’ pen was third-from-last in all of baseball in FIP, and at least part of that is due to the amount of times Scioscia has had to turn to them when the game is taken a bad turn. Already, the Angels’ relievers have pitched over 100 innings, and are top-10 in baseball (2nd in the AL) total batters faced. Lots of innings plus poor performances is a bad formula, and so far it’s worked out pretty much as you’d expect for the Angels.
Saunders saved them the trouble tonight, though, going the distance while striking out six, allowing four hits and two walks. Dallas Braden, coming off a perfect game on Mother’s Day, also pitched a complete game, but allowed four runs on seven hits, including a Hideki Matsui HR, and struck out five. It also marked only the third time this season the Angels were able to hold the other team scoreless, the last time exactly one week ago in Seattle.
While the four runs the Angels scored was not a huge total, it is good to see the offense showing a little life after being held to two or fewer runs in six different games so far this month. After finishing April 7th in the AL in wOBA, the offense has found themselves dead last in May, and more than a full hundred points behind the hot-hitting Red Sox. For the Angels, keeping the other team off the board has been less than easy, and scoring their own runs hasn’t come much easier. At least for one night, Saunders and the offense combined to buck that trend.