The opening week of the season was a rough one for the Angels' starting rotation. Not only did some pitchers get knocked around or suffer the cruel hand of error-laden fate, the team also had to contend with #2 arm Andrew Heaney's injury, as well. If the pitching struggled this year, the other dominoes were to follow. The bullpen would get taxed, and the lineup would go dry or just not be able to produce the number of runs needed to walk away the victor. They needed a hero to emerge and begin to fill in the holes; to round out the rough edges and find the TRUE starting rotation in the lump of Charles Nagy's clay.
That hero may be Nick Tropeano. Getting the first road start of the year for the Halos, Nick Tropeano was a recent call-up for Heaney and tonight he used his time in the spotlight to absolutely shred the Oakland A's. Sonny Gray was on the mound for the home team, but while most would be intimidated, NiTro was an unwavering force of nature. He went toe to toe with Gray, becoming a deadly tactician and playing with his opponents' emotions in the process. It was a heralding of a new presence in the AL West, a deadly fastball surgeon who operated on the Athletics' batters for five stellar innings.
There is plenty of hyperbole there, of course, but the truth is Tropeano DID hang right in there with Sonny Gray, and he WAS absolutely surgical with his pitch location tonight. Tropeano used a mix of his fastball inside, and then going change up outside. This worked like a charm for a good portion of his start, and when they'd get used to that, he'd obliterate their expectations with a slick breaking ball. He got into trouble a couple times, but would prove his mettle on the mound and then some. All in all, a great night for Tropeano, who finished with 5 IP, 6 H, 0 R, 2 BB(one was intentional) and 6 Ks.
Meanwhile, the boys with the bats were at first getting snakebit by the same good pitching, just coming from someone in an Oakland uniform. The game was 0-0 up until the sixth, when the Angels' top of the order made like Spring Training and put some runs on the board. The inning started with Yunel Escobar getting a stand-up double, followed by Daniel Nava driving him home with a single to right. The Angels were on the board, up 1-0, but not for long.
Mike Trout followed Nava with an absolute murdering of a Sonny Gray fastball, sending it deep, deep into the Oakland center field, into the concrete bleachers. The Angels now had a 3-0 lead, and Mike Trout had his first home run of the season, and it was majestic. In the 8th, Albert Pujols stole second base, with no throw, and became the first Halos base stealer of 2016. Uhhhhh, ok. Even better, Andrelton Simmons blooped a single to right a few batters later, making the score 4-0 heading into the final inning.
Joe Smith got the nod initially in the ninth inning, but after getting a man on and then giving up an RBI single, he was pulled. There were already two outs, too, so they lost out on the shutout. But Huston Street was brought in for the final out, which he got, and with that the Halo back home was lit. Angels win 4-1.
Oakland didn't look like a pushover coming into this series, and the Angels were up to the task to take them down. You have to come away from this game thinking about the rotation and where it will go once the injury dust settles. Tropeano is proving that he's got the touch, though, and I can't wait to see his next start. The kid pitched like he had some sort of Robocop targeting system in his eye, and the strike zone was as broad as a barn...and the Angels went back to their hotel with another W in the standings.
That's two in a row. Now give me some more.