Indians-Angels preview

BY foxsports • June 11, 2016

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- When Angels pitcher Matt Shoemaker was sent down to Triple-A Salt Lake after a terrible season-opening month of April, it figured he had a number of things to work on.

Shoemaker admitted his mindset was his biggest issue -- specifically, taking a more aggressive approach to the mound.

That approach of going after hitters and not nibbling seems to have worked. He goes into Saturday's start against the Cleveland Indians with an impressive streak alive -- he has set an Angels franchise record by striking out 39 batters without mixing in any walks.

Over his last four starts, he has 37 strikeouts and zero walks. His last walk came against the Dodgers on May 16, when he gave Trayce Thompson a free pass. He has gone 33 2/3 consecutive innings without a walk.

"It's kind of just a bunch of little things," Shoemaker said. "The execution of pitches, there's more focus on that. Throwing better pitches in better counts. A whole mix of stuff. Mentally, I'm a lot different. A better state of mind, going over hitters, game plans, sticking with it. I'm the same guy but maybe a better mindset."

Though Shoemaker seems to have turned things around, the Angels are going south quickly. They have lost five in a row and have fallen a season-worst nine games under .500 (26-35). They had not been nine games under .500 since Sept. 9, 2013.

The Indians, though, are going in a different direction, winning eight of their last 10 and moving into first place in the American League Central on June 4.

Indians pitcher Trevor Bauer, who will start Saturday's game, has been a big part of the Tribe's resurgence. Bauer was the starting pitcher in two of the victories during a recent six-game winning streak, giving up four runs on nine hits with 16 strikeouts and four walks in 14 2/3 innings.

Like Shoemaker, Bauer is attributing some of his success to a mindset.

"What is happiness? What is fun?" Bauer told MLB.com after his last start June 6 against Seattle. "It's a feeling. I want to enjoy playing. I've been trying to do that more this year."

The Indians also will take into the game the advantage of having "Angels killer" Mike Napoli, who played his first five big league seasons with the Angels before they traded him away after the 2010 season.

Since the trade, it doesn't seem to matter for which team Napoli is playing. With the Rangers, Red Sox and now the Indians, Napoli has hit .319 (60 for 188) against the Angels with 18 homers and 38 RBIs in 56 games.

It's the most homers against any opponent for Napoli other than the A's (21 homers) and the Mariners (20), but he's played twice as many games against those teams (112 vs. Oakland; 111 vs. Seattle).

"I like doing that, but I don't know what it is," Napoli told the L.A. Times when asked whether he wants to make the Angels pay for trading him. "It just happens. Guys have teams they do that against. The Angels happen to be it for me."



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