Before getting into the starter for San Diego, let’s pour one out for Vinnie Pestano, the right-handed reliever who did everything that was asked of him down the stretch in 2014. That was the last time the Angels reached the postseason, and Pestano struck out 34.2% of his batters faced after joining the team in August.
Pestano allowed only one run in 12 appearances over 9⅔ innings, and in his two playoff games he combined for three outs without giving up a run. About as good as one might expect from a reliever acquired at midseason.
To get Pestano from Cleveland, the Angels sent a 23-year-old right-hander who had a 4.31 ERA across two Class-A levels, with 85 strikeouts in 79⅓ innings. That right-hander, Mike Clevinger, was drafted by the Angels in the fourth round in 2011. In the Indians’ system he flourished and made the majors by 2016.
Clevinger, who was acquired by the Padres on Monday and makes his debut start with San Diego on Thursday in Anaheim, had a 3.20 ERA in 101 games, including 88 starts, with Cleveland.
This year Angels starters are 26th with a 5.51 ERA, though the last time through the rotation was very good. In the last five games, Angels starters allowed six runs in 30⅓ innings, posting a 1.78 ERA with 25 strikeouts and 11 walks.
Four of those five outings were at least five innings, something Angels starters have done only 15 times in 37 games this season. The Angels are 7-8 (.467) in games in which their starters last five innings this season, and are 5-17 (.227) when they don’t.
That positive run through the rotation began with Andrew Heaney, who pitched into the eighth inning and struck out a season-high 10 against Seattle.
Heaney, who was acquired by the Angels four months and four days after Clevinger was traded away, this season has a 4.62 ERA, but he also has more strikeouts (41) than innings (37), with a 26.6-percent strikeout rate that ranks second on the team to Dylan Bundy. Heaney’s 2.75 FIP ranks sixth in the American League, and the difference between his ERA and FIP (1.87) is second in the AL only to Matt Boyd of Detroit.
Heaney has only allowed two home runs in seven starts, which explains a lot of that difference. On Thursday night, he will have to face a Padres team that is tied for the major league lead with 69 home runs, and leading outright with a .493 slugging percentage.
Time: 4:10 p.m. PT
TV: Fox Sports West, MLB Network