Angels General Manager Jerry Dipoto’s answer was simple when asked if Oakland’s assertive trade deadline strategy would force him to act.
He gave New York Post columnist Joel Sherman one word: “no.”
The Athletics acquired left-hander Jon Lester and left fielder Jonny Gomes from Boston for star outfielder Yoenis Cespedes hours before the time expired. Moments later, they traded Tommy Milone- a lefty with a 3.55 ERA this season- to Minnesota for utility outfielder Sam Fuld.
Lester’s addition is impressive, but Milone’s departure reveals the depth of Oakland’s starting rotation.
A winner of six straight decisions, Milone was sent to Triple-A Sacramento to make room for Jeff Samardjian. The A’s got him in a package that included Jason Hammel, their projected No. 5 starter, in exchange for a top-prospect. Couple the duo with Lester, Scott Kazmir, and Sonny Gray and Oakland has one powerhouse of a pitching staff.
The Angels were stagnant at the trade deadline, begging the question: how can the Halos compete against Oakland’s starting core?
Los Angeles stumbled to a 6-6 marks following the All-Star break. They trail the A’s by just 2 ½ games for the AL West lead despite dropped the first two of their current eight-game road trip.
Garrett Richards (11-4)-the team’s wins leader through the first half- hasn’t won since July 11. He’s lost two straight decisions, yielding four runs and at least six hits over his last 13 innings.
Yesterday, Richards suffered his first road loss since giving up five runs in less than an inning May 30 in Oakland. His opponent was Drew Pomeranz, a lefty whose 2.91 ERA isn’t good enough to crack the A’s rotation.
Jered Weaver’s outing Monday night was less inspiring. The Angels’ ace allowed a season-high six earned runs while tying a season high with four walks. Were it not for Manny Machado’s 12th-inning walk-off homer, the Halos could have disregarded Weaver’s inauspicious outing.
Over the last week, the lone bright spot has been Matt Shoemaker whose won three of his last four decisions including a seven-inning shutout of Detroit last Saturday. The 27-year-old righty strikes out about 9.32 hitters per nine innings- highest among Angels starters- and hasn’t allowed a walk over the last 16 1/3 frames.
Then there is C.J. Wilson, the staff’s workhorse over the last two years. An ankle injury placed Wilson on the 15-day disabled list earlier this month, but he expects to pitch in this weekend’s Tampa Bay series.
This quartet can compete with anyone Oakland send to the mound. Richards’ already squared off against former Cy Young winners earlier this month, scattering three hits against Felix Hernandez and the Mariners before going toe-to-toe with Detroit’s Max Scherzer through six innings.
Shoemaker’s no slouch either. He’s defeated Yu Darvish, Cliff Lee, and David Price in his first full major league season. Shoemaker isn’t dominant; his fastball peaks at 92 MPH, but his slider and deceptive splitter have led to an impressive 8-3 record.
When it comes down to it, the Angels’ hope of outdueling Oakland lies in Weaver and Wilson. They are the leaders on an otherwise young staff. They’ve been through the battles and know the pressure a pennant chase brings. Wilson’s pitched in two World Series and Weaver holds a 2.61 ERA in six playoff appearances.
Then again, there’s no telling how the A’s staff will react as October nears. Lester’s a world champion, but Samardjian and Hammel have spent most of their careers with bottom dwellers.
Angels fans know all too well of Kazmir’s postseason troubles. In 2009, Tampa Bay sent Kazmir to Anaheim where he compiled a 1.73 ERA through six starts but tanked during the playoffs. He allowed nine runs over 10 innings and never regained his dominance.
Granted, this is a revitalized Kazmir. He’s having a Cy Young-caliber season having lost only three games. Whether he can carry that late into September remains to be seen.
The regular season doesn’t always translate into October and a starter’s regular season’s success is mitigated by their postseason performance.
If the Angels don’t win the West outright, it won’t be because the starting rotation let them down.