Wednesday, April 13, 2011
Haren-Weaver tough, but ...
By Steve Berthiaume
Dan Haren and Jered Weaver have combined for all six of the Angels' wins.
Dan Haren had the Indians hitters raving about his ability to throw his off-speed pitches for strikes Tuesday night. It was the consistency with which he perfectly located his curveball and splitter that stymied Cleveland's bats almost completely. Haren won a 2-0 game that featured just five base hits, four of them by the Angels. When it was over, Haren had pitched his third career shutout, his 12th career complete game and the 17th one-hitter in Angels history, the franchise's first one-hit shutout since John Lackey in 2006.
The crispness and accuracy with which Haren threw his 125 pitches is even more remarkable, when you consider that Haren's one-hit wonder came only three days after he worked one inning of relief to collect the victory in a 14-inning game against the Blue Jays. His win also snapped Cleveland's eight-game win streak, which according to the Elias Sports Bureau, made Haren the first pitcher to throw a one-hit shutout against a team with a win streak of at least eight games since the Dodgers' Don Sutton versus the Giants in 1969.
Haren's gem also came just two days after the Angels Jered Weaver used exact same number of pitches to strike out a career-high 15 Blue Jays in a 3-1 win. This season is just one day shy of being two weeks old, but so far, Weaver and Haren have been baseball's best 1-2 rotation punch. They've combined to go 6-0, with a 0.79 ERA and 48 strikeouts in 45.1 innings. Here's the issue: The Weaver/Haren win total of six also represents the Angels' overall win total. Angels starters other than Weaver and Haren are a combined 0-2, with a 6.58 ERA.
Ervin Santana's primary issue has simply been bad luck despite beginning the season with a pair of quality starts. Santana (0-1, 3.68) starts tonight against Cleveland after taking a shutout into the sixth inning in the Angels home opener. It's after the Weaver/Haren/Santana trio that things get really hazy.
Joel Pineiro is still trying to work through shoulder discomfort. The Los Angeles Times reports Pineiro could begin a minor league rehab assignment by next weekend but with Pineiro needing at least two rehab starts, a return before the last week of April seems unlikely. Twenty-one-year old Tyler Chatwood, who grew up only one hour away from Angel Stadium, made his major league debut Monday night against the Indians and took a 4-0 loss. Chatwood allowed only four hits in five innings, but two of the hits were home runs. He also walked four but certainly showed enough promise to be penciled in to start again this weekend.
It's lower back pain that has Scott Kazmir on the disabled list, but it's Kazmir's pitching that could lead to his long-term absence from the Angels rotation. Acquired from Tampa Bay just before Labor Day 2009, Kazmir has gone 11-17 in Anaheim, where he's making $12 million this season. The Angels will almost certainly elect to pay the $2.5 million buyout on the final year of Kazmir's contract for next season rather than pick up a $13.5 million club option. The question now becomes: Can the Angels salvage anything from Kazmir this season? Kazmir just turned 27 in January, which makes it puzzling to imagine the fastball velocity and wipeout slider he trademarked with Tampa Bay can't be rediscovered in Anaheim. What's troubling is he seems to be going backwards.
The Angels certainly have other issues, as well. The closer's job is far from settled. Their big offseason acquisition of Vernon Wells looked even more suspect when Wells was benched Tuesday night. Stuck in a 1-for-26 slump and batting just .091 through his first 44 at-bats, Wells' start only underscores another number: the $81 million the Angels will reportedly be paying on the rest of his contract.
Yes, baseball's best 1-2 rotation punch is undefeated at 6-0. However, with the other three-fifths of the group winless and disabled, the Angels have already spotted Texas a three-game cushion in the AL West.
Steve Berthiaume is a regular anchor for "Baseball Tonight" and "SportsCenter." He'll be contributing all season to the SweetSpot blog.