Angels' Scott Downs is used to anonymity, but with a 0.32 ERA, he deserves to be an All-Star.
By MICHAEL MARTINEZFS West
Scott Downs didn't make the American League All-Star team and wasn't picked as a candidate for the fans' final vote to select the last member of the American League squad. That went to his Angels bullpen mate, Ernesto Frieri.
In a way, that's a shame. Downs could make a good case for himself based on the season he's having.
Downs is one of those guys who works in relative anonymity in the bullpen. He's played for four teams in 11 years (including the long-deceased Montreal Expos) and has never approached All-Star status.
Closers become stars. Downs, 36, is just a left-handed reliever, a situational pitcher whose primary job is to get out left-handed hitters. He's done that and more this season.
In the Angels' 3-0 win over the Cleveland Indians, Downs picked up the final six outs to save the game for starter Jered Weaver, whose seven shutout innings lowered his ERA to an American League-leading 2.13.
Downs did it impressively, coming into the game after Weaver gave up leadoff singles to Jack Hannahan and Shin-Soo Choo to open the eighth.
First batter: switch-hitter Asdrubal Cabrera. Downs, a sinkerball specialist, got Cabrera to hit his second pitch on the ground for a 6-4-3 double play.
Second batter: left-handed-hitter Jason Kipnis. Downs retired the Indians second baseman on a fly ball to center, preserving the shutout.
He retired the side in order in the ninth, including catching a line-drive off the bat of Carlos Santana for the second out.
"Downs has been getting it done for us all year, and every year he's been with us," Angels second baseman Howie Kendrick told FOX Sports West after the game. "He's easy to play behind."
This is Downs' second season in Anaheim. Last season, he went 6-3, had one save and finished with a career-best 1.34 ERA. This season, he's been even better, going 7 for 7 in save opportunities and giving up just one earned run in 28 1/3 innings, an absurdly low 0.32 ERA.
The fact Frieri has yet to allow a run since the trade that brought him to the Angels on May 3 from San Diego is the reason he's a candidate for the last spot on the AL All-Star team. But Downs shouldn't be dismissed.
In fact, he and Frieri pretty much share the closer's role on the Angels. They have the best combined ERA for any two relief pitchers in the majors, a 0.17 mark in 52 1/3 innings.
Certainly, manager Mike Scioscia took notice. In a game in which Weaver worked himself out of a bases-loaded, no-outs jam in the seventh and rookie Mike Trout caused ripples of concern after injuring his right pinky Sunday in Toronto and missing his first start in 49 games, he still remembered his left-hander.
"Scott Downs was as important as anything that happened tonight," Scioscia told reporters.
That's a nice pat on the back for a pitcher who doesn't get the big money and may never win a roster spot in an All-Star Game. But this season, he's proving he deserves a nod.