The Angels and the Royals had themselves some cactus league action today, and if you missed it, then you might want to catch a replay or scour the internet for some highlights, because this game was insanely satisfying. Forget about the fact that the Halos lost, to the tune of 8-4; this is one of those instances where the scoreboard will only mislead you, but trust me, there was some magic going on in Surprise Stadium.
The man behind all of this magic, the source of today’s gleeful Angels optimism, was none other than The Bearded One aka The Cobbler aka Matt Shoemaker. Shoemaker, the guy we’re all pulling for as he comes back from last year’s gnarly head shot, had perhaps the best start of any Halos pitcher in this young spring training season.
Shoemaker only pitched four innings, but in that stretch, he eliminated 12 of the 14 batters he faced. He gave up just one lone hit, one walk and zero runs, and had actually disposed of the first 11 batters he faced, flaunting that pinpoint-accurate dominance he showed us in his brilliant run last year.
This was Shoemaker’s 3rd cactus league outing of 2017, and with each subsequent game started, he seems to be improving and getting his stuff (today, his fastball was in the usual high-80s-to-low-90s range) back in tip top shape. Getting loose and shaking off the winter rust is pretty much the point of spring training, but it doesn’t always go so easily; there can definitely be some hiccups (see: Cameron Maybin), but Shoemaker is getting into the groove, it seems, in a big, promising way.
He was actually TOO dominant today, if you can believe that. It only took him 41 pitches to get through those four innings, but the Angels had wanted him to get to 60 pitches today, so once he was lifted from the game, he went to the bullpen to throw some more. Take note, Angels pitchers. Shoemaker is heating up, throwing darts, and dropping mics out there. Time for the others to follow suit.
Maybe he’s just building back up to the ace-like guy we saw in the 2016 season, or maybe this lights out performance was just another birthday present for his wife, Danielle, or maybe it’s a little bit of both? All I know is I want to see some more.