ARLINGTON -- Viewed as a whole, Angels lefty Patrick Sandoval’s recent starts begin to add up like a deftly edited movie trailer: the best parts are good enough to make fans excited to see the finished product next year.
Sandoval’s ERA over his past nine starts is just 2.03, and he has 50 strikeouts in 53 1/3 innings over that stretch, counting five frames of work in Tuesday night’s 5-2 victory over the Rangers at Globe Life Field. Sandoval fanned seven -- all swinging, including five in his first two innings.
Sandoval has allowed two earned runs or fewer in his past nine starts. Over his past six starts, beginning with a nine-strikeout complete-game shutout Aug. 19 in Detroit, Sandoval has a 1.93 ERA.
“We tinkered with some things right before my start in Detroit and it’s really helped these last two months,” Sandoval said after improving to 6-9 for the season on Tuesday.
The only area in which Sandoval seemed off against the Rangers was walks; he issued a season-high-tying four free passes for the first time since Aug. 12. But he managed to work around them, avoiding catastrophic damage. Had Sandoval not had such sharp-moving, speed-changing stuff, his first two batters of the game -- a leadoff walk to Marcus Semien and an RBI double by Corey Seager -- could have spun things out of control from the beginning. Instead, Sandoval struck out three of the next four hitters to end the threat.
Sandoval also made three fine defensive plays, starting an inning-ending double play in the third with a reaching grab and throw to second. He got off the mound quickly to secure outs on back-to-back rollers to his left in the fifth, first covering first and receiving a throw from Mike Ford and then fielding a bunt and throwing to Ford for the out.
“He’s a really good athlete, a great defender,” said Angels interim manager Phil Nevin. “He showed it again tonight -- he comes off the mound well and covers first well. He helps himself out quite a bit.”
After Semien’s RBI double tied the game in the fifth, Sandoval walked Seager to put himself in as grave a situation as he had encountered since the first inning. Once again, he got out of it, but as with many of his outings this season, his pitch count had run uncomfortably high and Nevin chose to go to his bullpen.
“He wanted to go back out -- that’s fine, I don’t ever want a pitcher to tell me he was done, or like when I take him out of the game,” Nevin said. “I just felt like it was the right time. He had some high pitch-count innings, especially the one before. He’s just got to get through hitters quicker, that’s all.”
Indeed, working more efficiently is one of Sandoval’s top priorities in the remainder of the season. He will only make two more starts if he pitches every fifth game from here on out. He said his main goals over the final two months have been “getting deep into the games and coming out of the season healthy and ready to roll into Spring Training.”
Cue the movie trailer voice: “Coming next spring … in a world where Patrick Sandoval is ready to roll …”