Angels likely to rely on bullpen against Mariners (Jul 02, 2017)

BY AP • July 2, 2017

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- The starting pitchers on Sunday are Jesse Chavez for the Los Angeles Angels and James Paxton for the Seattle Mariners, but chances of them being on the mound late in the game are long.

It's rare for a starter to go all the way nowadays.

Chavez (5-8, 5.04 ERA), a hard-luck loser in one of the four games against the Los Angeles Dodgers this season, has made 18 appearances against the Mariners, posting a 1-6 record and 5.40 ERA.

Paxton (5-3, 3.44) is making his ninth career start against the Angels, with a 3-2 record and 2.12 ERA.

Both teams have reached midseason and on the eve of the All-Star Game break are in contention for a wild-card playoff slot despite having straddled .500 most of the season.

The truth is, the Angels are in the heat of postseason contention in the era of the five-inning starter because of their bullpen. No one knows that better than Angels manager Mike Scioscia, whose team is in the picture because a bullpen assembled from spare parts has been sharper than any could have imagined.

To date, Angels starters are 26-32 with a 4.38 ERA. The bullpen, meanwhile, is 17-10 with a 3.71 ERA and has stranded 99 of 128 inherited runners.

"We've been playing well lately," Scioscia said after splitting four games with the Dodgers this week. "But our heads are still above water because of what the guys in the bullpen have done for us all season. Otherwise, we'd be 10 games under. 500."

What's most stunning is the absolute lack of credentials for the guys who have done the late lifting. The best-known guys, Huston Street and Cam Bedrosian, just recently returned from the disabled list. The other five guys include three non-roster invitees to spring training, a rookie and a guy purchased from Atlanta.

David Hernandez, picked up from the Braves, hasn't allowed a run in 25 of 28 appearances, has a 2.10 ERA and hasn't allowed a home run. Rookie Keynan Middleton was recalled in May when the team was going through an injury turnstile. He has a 3.38 ERA in 27 games.

Bud Norris was a non-roster invitee who spent most of his career as a starter and inherited the closer's role after injuries to Street and Bedrosian. He has 11 saves.

Blake Parker, another non-roster guy, hasn't allowed a run in 30 of 32 appearances and had a 19-game scoreless streak earlier this season. His 12.99 strikeout-to-walk ratio is fourth best in the majors.

Yusmeiro Petit is the other non-roster guy who owns a 2014 World Series ring from when he was with the San Francisco Giants. In 26 1/3 innings before Friday, he had allowed just three earned runs and stranded all 13 runners he inherited. He has worked more innings (48 1/3) than any other reliever in the American League.

One exception to the norm for starting pitchers is Ricky Nolasco, who showed Saturday night that it's still possible to throw a complete game.

The Angels right-hander set down the Mariners on three hits in a wall-to-wall effort and smiled when he said, "It was a good day for the bullpen."

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