Ricky Nolasco Is Pitching Better, Is It Enough For 2017?

Ricky Nolasco is making adjustments, and pitching better. Did the Angels potentially kick the dust off an interesting treasure?

ANAHEIM -- The job of a pitcher is to put zeroes on the board. It's the way it's always been, pretty simple.

However, the simplicity is only in the definition. The actual doing of that is quite challenging.

For Ricky Nolasco, a pitcher, the task at hand hasn't been simple.

Over his last five starts with the Angels, he's allowed 12 runs, a ratio of 2.4 per start - not bad. However, over his eight starts prior to Saturday night, the Angels had gone 1-7 in his starts - bad.

The problem for Nolasco has been the final few hitters. Over those five starts and 12 runs allowed, 10 have come in his final innings of work.

A simple break down. Start one, scoreless through the first 23 batter's faced, four runs in the final seven. Second start, a shutout in 94 pitches. Third start, perfect through six, scoreless through seven, three runs in the eighth. Fourth start, two runs through 25 batters, two runs over final two.

"It's the big leagues," said Nolasco. "The more they see you, the better they're going to fare, and I got beat late a couple times lately but that's just the way the game goes. You just keep fighting, go hitter-by-hitter and making quality pitches."

It's been a battle of efficiency for Nolasco, but only in the final bit of his work load. On Saturday, that changed.

The leadoff man reached base in five of the six innings of work, but the result finished the same in each. Six frames, all with zeroes for the loaded Blue Jays' offense.

"That's a good lineup, and they're going to pressure you," said Angels' manager, Mike Scioscia. "They pressured Ricky tonight. He definitely made some pitches though, got some big outs, used all his pitches well."

Though Nolasco's stats read as a 2-6 record, 4.04 ERA, and WHIP 1.121 WHIP, he's pitched much better than what any numbers will express. Over his last four starts, only seven runs have come across home plate in 28 innings, or in a lesser number form, a 2.25 ERA.

Maybe the "change of scenery" myth isn't a myth, but an actuality, as Nolasco is now pitching in the state he grew up in.

"I've gone through some things," Nolasco noted. "I feel like I've been throwing the ball pretty well throughout the year, even in Minnesota. Being in California means the world to me. It's where I grew up and it's just a good feeling waking up every day. It means a lot, I'm enjoying it."

The other likelihood is that Nolasco, an 11-year-veteran, is doing what he's done his entire career - adjust. It's what can make-or-break a career, and for the 33-year-old starter, it's just another adjustment to continue his already lengthy time as a Major Leaguer.

"I think Charlie Nagy (Angels' pitching coach) has done a good job of getting him to understand how his stuff plays," Scioscia said of his pitcher. "He's a pitcher that threw a little harder maybe four years ago, and now he has to get an understanding to get that fastball in good spots."

Though the season is already lost, and playoff hopes have been long forgotten, the Angels will look to Ricky Nolasco in the future, for help in their pursuit of a stronger 2017 campaign.

If he can pitch to the abilities he has of recent, they may have kicked off the dust of a hidden gem for the right cost.

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