Angels' Nolasco aiming for strong finish against A's
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- As he prepares for his final start this year, the Los Angeles Angels' Ricky Nolasco hopes an encouraging finish can provide the antidote to an exasperating season.
The veteran right-hander will face rookie Daniel Mengden in the Angels' second game of their series against the Oakland Athletics on Tuesday night at Angel Stadium.
Nolasco, 33, brings a streak of 16 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings into the game. The 11-year veteran has not allowed a run since the Seattle Mariners' Robinson Cano hit a solo home run in the third inning of an 8-1 loss on Sept. 12.
That appearance was the only one of his past five in which Nolasco did not record a quality start. Since Aug. 31, when he threw a four-hit shutout against the Cincinnati Reds, Nolasco has permitted just 22 hits and only six walks in 35 innings while amassing 27 strikeouts, compiling a 1.80 earned-run average and holding opposing batters to a .182 average.
Coinciding with his stretch of scoreless innings is a two-game winning streak, Nolasco's first of the season. On Sept. 17, the right-hander scattered five hits and two walks in six innings to the Toronto Blue Jays while striking out seven in a 6-1 win. Then on Thursday night, Nolasco combined with two relievers for a 2-0 shutout of the Houston Astros. Nolasco allowed five hits and a walk in seven innings and added five strikeouts.
Not since August 2013, when he pitched for the Los Angeles Dodgers, has Nolasco refused to concede a run in successive starts.
"Right now, he's throwing the ball consistently," Angels manager Mike Scioscia told MLB.com. "He's putting his pitches together better. He's able to command counts. He's pitching the outside corner and he's pitching inside well. Mixing in both breaking balls is helping him."
Nolasco's recent success provides a dramatic contrast with the rest of the season. Before his shutout against the Reds, the right-hander had lost four consecutive starts and five straight decisions. Entering that game against Cincinnati, Nolasco owned a 4-12 record and a 5.24 ERA, most of which he compiled for the Minnesota Twins. The Angels acquired Nolasco and fellow right-hander Alex Meyer at the trading deadline in a four-player deal for left-hander Hector Santiago.
"I feel I've been throwing the ball well all year, but I'm putting everything together now," Nolasco told MLB.com. "I'm trying to finish up strong."
Mengden, like Nolasco, has struggled most of the season. Acquired from the Houston Astros last year for veteran Scott Kazmir, Mengden lost his first three major league starts after being recalled from Triple-A Nashville on June 11. A 1-5 record and a 5.73 ERA led to a trip back to Nashville before the A's summoned him Sept. 3. After two more losses, the 23-year-old right-hander had the best performance of his brief career.
Mengden dispersed three hits and issued no walks in seven shutout innings while collecting six strikeouts in a 14-5 rout of the Kansas City Royals on Sept. 15. The rookie retired 10 successive Royals from the first through the fourth innings.
"I got a lot of quick, early outs on weak contact, which is what we try to do," Mengden told the Associated Press. "I went in every inning and tried to establish Strike One, which I guess has been one of my biggest flaws since I've been up here."