The Freeway Series: every year the one team from Los Angeles gets to play the other team from Brooklyn. It's fun, it's rivalry, it's ammunition or fodder for some legit trash talk. But it can also be a bit of a hornet's nest at times, with the Dodgers able to pull some wins out of thin air in Chavez Ravine. We saw that tonight, in the first game of the four game set, where no lead was safe and the Angels just couldn't do anything easy, but they could get still do some damage and get the job done.
Matt Shoemaker had himself a big ol' heaping spoonful of vindication tonight, having himself a solid, five inning start where he struck out five and only allowed three runs. Shoemaker looked crisp and confident, as well as a bit more aerodynamic, as his legendary beard had been shaved away, leaving just the short stubble behind. It was much unlike his last start, which we all know was bad...but really, the main difference was the run support.
The Cobbler, in his last outing, had an inning where he gave up two big homers , and wouldn't last all that long. He gave up four runs. Tonight, he had a good strikeout pitch working, and he only allowed three; one was yet another homer(Trayce Thompson) and the others were singles from Carl Crawford and tonight's starter, Kent Maeda.
So very similar starts, and yet completely different vibes and outcomes; that is the elusive, and maddening, nature of baseball. But that is also the wonder that run support can provide. The Angels, as a team, have had some stretches bereft of any backup via scoring, until recently, that is, and now Shoemaker gets a little taste of the blowout high life.
When the Dodgers were able to strike first with those RBI singles off Shoemaker in the second inning, there were whiffs of another tumultuous and topsy turvy night. But Matt Shoemaker settled down, and then it was time for the offense to do their thing. They got to it in the top of the third, with an RBI single from new Mr. Clutch, Gregorio Petit, followed by a two-run Mike Trout singled, and capped off with an RBI single from Albert Pujols. Yep, the Halos all got fancy invites to a singles party thrown by Maeda, and Petit, Trout and Pujols showed up with some juicy RBI steaks.
The Halos weren't even close to relenting. Trayce Thompson hit his homer off of Shoemaker in the fourth, getting the Dodgers within one run(4-3 Halos), and then the two teams went on cruise control until the seventh, when the back-and-forth scoring would resume. In the top of that inning, Albert Pujols had yet another RBI single, this time a two-run knock into center, and then Johnny Giavotella scored Mike Trout on a sac fly. The GOOD Los Angeles team had added a few more runs, and it was now a burly 7-3 shelling with the Halos standing on top.
Of course, since the Angels like piling on themselves in situations that other teams would make quick work of, the Dodgers eventually came back into the game, getting a two-run homer off of Trayce Thompson in the eighth(his second of the evening), bringing the tally to 7-6 Angels heading into the ninth. With still no Huston Street, and no Joe Smith because of recent usage, we'd see it all in the hands of Fernando Salas. Cardiac time.
To Salas' huge credit, he sliced and diced through the Brooklyn bums, getting through the inning without incident, getting the 7-6 victory, and effectively lighting up the halo back at the Big A. The Angels won their fourth straight, after losing six in a row; they came in to rival turf to take on a team that could pose some problems on certain nights, and disposed of them with relative ease.
Best of all, Matt Shoemaker got a win. He's been on the receiving end of some ire from the fanbase, sometimes extreme but sometimes earned, but tonight he was just straight up good. Albert Pujols having his first three hit game of the season, and Mike Trout and the rest of the top of the order going off doesn't hurt either. Good pitching, and run support. You can win games with that combo, I dare say.
Now, do it tomorrow.