Angels hopeful Canning's stellar start will be 'stepping stone'

May 24th, 2023

ANAHEIM -- It was the kind of start right-hander had been waiting for this season.

Canning turned in easily his best outing of the year against the Red Sox on Tuesday, scattering two hits over a season-high seven scoreless innings to carry the Angels to a 4-0 win at Angel Stadium. Canning, who missed last season with a stress fracture in his lower back, entered with a 6.14 ERA and had surrendered at least three runs in each of his last four outings but turned it around in a big way with his strong showing.

“I think tonight is a big stepping stone for him,” said manager Phil Nevin. “It's finally like, ‘OK, here I am and I'm back and it's been two years.’ And finally you get a good one under your belt and you can run with it.”

Canning mixed up his pitches more this outing, as he threw his curveball more frequently than usual. He had thrown his curve just 10 percent of the time this season and just five times in his last outing, but he threw it for 17 of his 91 pitches against the Red Sox, which helped keep their hitters off-balance. Throwing more curveballs was part of the game plan, especially with Boston having seven lefties in its lineup.

“I think facing that many lefties, it was just something I was going to need to use a lot,” Canning said. “Fortunately, I had a good feel for it tonight, so that's why I went to it a lot. I pride myself on feeling the rhythm of the game and knowing what pitch to throw in certain situations.”

It was an encouraging sign for Canning, who improved to 3-2 with a 4.95 ERA in seven starts. The Angels have been seeing inconsistencies from starters outside of Shohei Ohtani and Patrick Sandoval, so if Canning can get it going, it would be huge for the rotation.

Nevin said he expects Canning to continue to vary his pitch mix going forward.

“He utilized all of his pitches, particularly the curveball,” Nevin said. “We talked about it all week after his last outing. It’s a really good pitch for him and he kind of got away from it. He was able to land several. He was able to locate all his pitches and was really good.”

Canning didn’t run into much trouble, although he did walk three batters through the first four innings before settling down. The Red Sox had just one at-bat against him with a runner in scoring position, which Canning handled by striking out Reese McGuire with two runners on to end the second.

He became more efficient as the game went on, registering a slew of quick outs and retiring 16 of the final 18 batters he faced. After laboring through his first two innings, he threw 12 pitches in the third, 13 in the fourth, nine in the fifth, 11 in the sixth and five in the seventh.

“As the game went on, you saw his confidence on his face every time he left the mound,” Nevin said. “You just kind of sensed he felt really good throughout the night. I didn’t have anybody up until the sixth, but he got through it quickly. He was really efficient. If we had a few more runs, I probably would’ve left him out for the eighth.”

The only two hits he gave up came on a two-out single from Enmanuel Valdez in the second and a two-out single from Triston Casas in the seventh. Canning, though, remained in the game after the single from Casas and got Valdez to pop up in foul ground to get through seven innings for the first time since Aug. 30, 2020, when he went eight against Seattle. It also marked the first time he'd thrown seven scoreless innings since May 18, 2019, against the Royals.

“It had been a while,” Canning said. “I think the injuries and stuff made me a better person and a better player. So I’m grateful that I went through it and got to this place, but it doesn't stop here and [we'll] just get back to work tomorrow.”

Canning was backed by a trio of homers from , and , with Trout tying Hall of Famer Joe DiMaggio on the all-time AL/NL home run list with a two-run blast in the eighth for his 361st career homer.

"It means a lot,” Trout said. “Just to be there with the greats, it's really special. Especially another center fielder."