ANAHEIM -- Can you actually call having a 5.96 ERA, a resurgence? In the case of Matt Shoemaker, it's easy. In his past two starts, just two runs have come across home plate, and neither happened while he was on the mound. Oh, and you can't forget, he's struck out 23 batters of 54 batters faced as well.
The past two games, Shoemaker has pitched 15.2 innings, while throwing strikes at a 73.5% rate. The two runs came in Friday's game after he left and the inherited runners scored on a single in the ninth inning with two outs.
"This is reminiscent of a couple years ago, with something extra," said Angels manager, Mike Scioscia. "Everything the last couple of starts has come together for Matt."
Scioscia was referring to Shoemaker's rookie campaign, where he finished runner up in American League Rookie of the Year voting, when he finished the year with a 16-4 record and 3.04 ERA. Things haven't been the same for "Shoe," as the last two years have seen a 4.96 ERA and 9-15 record. The last two starts are beginning to see the old Shoemaker.
"It's kinda just a bunch of little things the same time as just going out there and pitching," said Shoemaker. "The execution of pitches, just more focus on that. Throwing better pitches, better counts, a whole mix of stuff."
"Sometimes when you're on the mound, every pitcher goes through it. You're just out there throwing the ball. You get a sign, you like the pitch and just throw the ball. When you're focusing on the catcher, execution of the pitch, what the hitter's gonna do, if the focus is there, overall the execution is better. It might be an inch, but that inch is a big difference."
As stated in the fore set, Shoemaker has struck out 23 of 54 batters in his last two starts. Friday, he became the ninth Angels pitcher in franchise history to strikeout 10-or-more hitters in back-to-back games in franchise history, and first since Jered Weaver in June of 2010.
Over the last two games, Shoemaker created 44 swing-and-misses, with 28 coming off the splitter. Friday, the 29-year-old starter for the Halos noted he has a high load of confidence in the pitch, which he showed, throwing it in every count over the course of his work load.
Good focus, executing hitters, putting them away when you're ahead," Shoemaker said of his ability to force misses at the plate. "All those things mixed together. You've got to get ahead of hitters to strike them out and just trying to get early bad contact."
The Angels coaching staff truly believes this is the Shoemaker of old, so can you truly call it a resurgence? Possibly. The numbers equate to a change over the past two years, but it's just two starts. Is it all a fluke?
"We always felt that at some point he was going to get back to where he was," Scioscia said. "None of us felt a couple years ago was a fluke. Now, hopefully he's turned the corner on some things and we're not at all surprised with the last two games he's pitched. We're probably surprised at some of the inconsistency of the games last year and the games this year."
The ERA has been lowered by two and a half runs per game, and hitters cannot seem to figure out his off-speed pitches. If this is the Shoemaker of old, who was a star-studded rookie and main conversation around baseball, the Angels may be able to dig themselves out of the six and a half-game hole in the division and five-games back in the wildcard race.
"This is the time and we want to get on a roll and get it going," said Shoemaker. "We know what kind of team we have and what we're capable of."