Straily glad to share secrets to success with Reds teammates
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- The Los Angeles Angels and Cincinnati Reds don't know much about each other, playing head-to-head only nine times in their respective histories.
And they haven't played each other at all since 2013, when the lineups of each team looked very different than their current lineups.
But the one thing both teams have in common is not something either team is too happy about: Both are in last place, playing out the season and doing a lot of evaluating for next season and beyond.
The Angels, though 18 games under .500 and 20 1/2 games out in the American League West, enter the series playing well, having won four of their past five games, beating playoff contenders Toronto and Detroit during that stretch.
Not so much for the Reds, 19 games under .500 and 27 games out in the National League Central, who have lost five of seven.
The Reds, though, have Dan Straily starting on the mound coming in on a hot streak. He's 6-0 in his last seven starts and hasn't lost a decision since July 8. He leads the Reds staff in victories (10), innings pitched (151 1/3) and strikeouts (123).
A key pitch for Straily is his changeup, and he has been happy to share his secrets with his teammates. In particular, Straily recently was approached by teammate Brandon Finnegan for some help.
"It was the exact same problem I went through a couple of years ago back when I was in the minor leagues," Straily told mlb.com. "Once he told me he was having problems cutting it, I just showed him what helped me stop cutting it and it worked for him. It's just how we hold it. We have the same grip; he was just holding it the same way I used to hold it in college.
"College balls, the seams allow it to do something different. The seams are smaller and when you throw it the way we threw it back in college, now it's like a cutter, sometimes it's down, sometimes it goes arm-side, there's no control with the movement, which is a good thing, except when nobody can catch it."
The advice paid off when Finnegan struck out a career-high 12 Arizona Diamondback hitters in just six innings last Friday.
Straily may have a few tricks up his sleeve against the Angels, at least, compared to what the Angels are used to seeing when facing him. Straily started seven games against the Angels while pitching for Oakland, but went just 1-3 with a 6.69 ERA.
Matt Shoemaker will start for the Angels with a record (8-13) that won't strike fear into the Reds hitters. But Shoemaker has been far better than his record shows.
Shoemaker has given up two earned runs or fewer in more than half of his starts (13 of 25), but earned the victory in just six of those 13 games.
One of Shoemaker's biggest problems this season has been a lack of run support. The Angels have scored at least four runs in only 11 of Shoemaker's 25 starts. And early runs are even better.
"It's always good to have a lead," Shoemaker told MLB.com. "It's always nice knowing, that's in the back of your mind, 'Hey we've got a two-run lead' or whatever it is. The game plan is to attack the hitters, but then when you have the lead, same thing, attack the hitters, stay aggressive."
With just over a month to play, about the only drama the Angels have is whether or not Mike Trout can win another MVP award. Trout's numbers make him a candidate -- .312 average, 24 homers, 82 RBIs, 97 runs scored and a league-leading .432 on-base percentage.
Surprisingly, though, Angels manager Mike Scioscia generally doesn't believe players from last-place teams deserve to be an MVP.
"Yes," Scioscia said when asked if the MVP should come from a contender. "Unless somebody just separates themselves so much where you go 'my gosh, this guy's 15 more home runs than the next guy, 30 more RBI than the next guy.'
"But I definitely think there needs to be a value on how you've affected a team's performance. I think to be a contender says a lot about what a player brings to a team. ... When you play on a contender your production has more of an impact on that team's success."