Halos' pitchers combine for 1-hitter in shutout win
Once again, Matt Palmer showed he can be a solid starter or reliever. That sort of versatility on the mound has been a recurring theme this year for the playoff-bound Los Angeles Angels.
Palmer combined with four relievers on a one-hitter and the AL West champions tied a club record for most runs in a season with a 5-0 victory over the Texas Rangers on Wednesday night.
Palmer (11-2) gave up a leadoff single in the first inning to Julio Borbon, walked two batters and induced a pair of inning-ending double plays in his 13th and final start this season.
"It would have been different had I gone nine myself and gave up one hit, but that's the way it is. Everybody contributed and we got the win," Palmer said.
Darren Oliver struck out the side in the sixth. Jose Arredondo, Kevin Jepsen and fellow rookie Rafael Rodriguez each pitched a hitless inning.
It was the sixth combined one-hitter in Angels history and the first since July 24, 2004, when Bartolo Colon, Francisco Rodriguez and Troy Percival teamed up to beat the Rangers 2-0 in Anaheim. Texas' only hit that night was a third-inning single by Michael Young.
The Angels opened this four-game series with an 11-0 rout that clinched their third straight division title. Their 5-2 win Tuesday night knocked Texas out of wild-card contention.
"We obviously wanted to come out with a better effort and we wanted to have more than one hit," Young said. "Obviously, it's tough, knowing that our chance to make the playoffs is finished. That's difficult to deal with and accept, without a doubt. But we have four games left, so we've got to be professionals and still go out and play to win."
One night after center fielder Marlon Byrd left the game because of a strained right hip, Rangers first baseman Hank Blalock was lifted for a pinch hitter because of a concussion he sustained while fielding Erick Aybar's bunt hit and making a lunging attempt to tag him. Texas pitcher Derek Holland's knee struck Blalock in the head as they both converged at the bag.
Palmer, a 30-year-old rookie, won his first five starts this year and was 6-0 in his first eight - joining Jered Weaver as the only starting pitchers in club history to win their first six decisions.
Palmer had been used 26 times in relief since his previous start July 25, but was plugged into Weaver's slot so the Angels could set up their rotation for next week's first-round playoff series against Boston.
"It's been a roller-coaster," Palmer said. "I've had a lot of people help me out and it's been a good year. I feel comfortable starting and coming out of the bullpen. I've got the mentality to come out of the 'pen, but I've proven through the year that I can get deeper into games and go five or six innings if I need to."
Holland (8-13) gave up four runs over 6 1-3 innings and finished 1-6 with a 10.19 ERA in his final seven starts this season.
He retired his first nine batters before Chone Figgins opened the fourth with a double and Aybar followed with his major league-leading 18th bunt hit of the season and the Angels' 34th - also most in the majors. Torii Hunter singled to drive in the first run and Juan Rivera added an RBI single.
Aybar, who hurt his right hand on the pitch before his bunt single, was lifted for a pinch hitter in the sixth after Figgins drove in the Angels' third run with a two-out single.
"Our lineup's clicking," catcher Mike Napoli said. "We're getting two-out timely hits with runners in scoring position. It's a good feeling, having people up there who can get the job done."
Gary Matthews Jr. added an RBI double in the seventh and Terry Evans had an RBI single in the eighth. The 866 runs the Angels have scored this season equal the total they had in 1979, when they won their first division title.
"This is the best offensive team I've seen from them since I've been here, and I've seen a lot of guys come and go over there," Young said. "They already had a lot of talent over there, but I think the addition of Bobby Abreu was huge for them. I've seen some of their guys who were super aggressive in the past are now a little more patient, waiting for their pitches and doing damage when they get it."
Weaver, the winning pitcher in the Angels' first game after Adenhart's death, was presented with the inaugural Nick Adenhart Award as the team's pitcher of the year. ... Abreu played in his 150th game, the 12th straight season he has reached that figure. The only other players with streaks that long were Willie Mays (13), Billy Williams (12), Pete Rose (12) and Cal Ripken Jr. (12). ... Figgins scored his 114th run, one more than his previous career best in 2005.