ANAHEIM -- Griffin Canning has had some ups and downs during his rookie season, but the right-hander has shown plenty of promise and turned in one of his better outings against the White Sox in the series finale on Sunday afternoon.
Canning matched season highs with both seven innings and eight strikeouts, while allowing just one run on five hits in a 9-2 win at Angel Stadium. It was a nice bounce-back effort from Canning, who had posted a 7.89 ERA over his last six outings dating back to July 4. Canning had gone seven innings once before, on May 18 against the Royals.
“This may be his best outing,” Angels manager Brad Ausmus said. “His pitch count was real low, not a lot of hard contact, used all four of his pitches really well. His changeup was strong today. We talked about it before the game; when all four of his pitches are working, he’s a tough pitcher to face.”
The one run that Canning allowed came after a misplay by center fielder Brian Goodwin on a deep drive from Eloy Jimenez with two outs in the fourth. Goodwin lost the ball in the sun near the wall, allowing James McCann to score from first in what was ruled an RBI triple for Jimenez -- it was the first hit allowed by Canning in the game.
Canning mixed his pitches well. Of his 101 pitches, only 36 were fastballs. Canning got 19 swinging strikes, including eight with his slider, five with his curveball, four with his four-seamer and two with his changeup. It marked the third time he's gone over 100 pitches this year, which was one off his career high of 102 against the A's on June 4, when he also struck out eight.
“I’m not trying to put a grade on it, but I felt pretty good,” Canning said. “I had different stuff working. It’s always good to save some arms, with three days and four games coming up.”
Rookie catcher Anthony Bemboom worked with Canning for the first time since being called up Aug. 11, and he came away impressed by the right-hander's stuff and ability to locate all four pitches.
“He made pitches when he needed to," said Bemboom, who hit his first career homer in the eighth. "Even if he fell behind, he made some really good leverage-count pitches, got himself back into counts really well and started putting guys away. Everything he throws is pretty firm and sharp, and when he's got good feel for it, it's pretty fun to catch."
Outside of throwing six scoreless innings against the Tigers on July 30, Canning had been scuffling since early July. But the Angels are hopeful that Canning can get back on track down the stretch. He's exhibited plenty of swing-and-miss stuff this year, as his 96 strikeouts through 18 outings is the second most in Halos history behind Jered Weaver's 100 strikeouts in 2006.
"I've been lucky enough the last couple years to watch him pitch, really since he got drafted," said fellow rookie Matt Thaiss, who homered and set a career high with four RBIs. "I know what kind of pitcher he is, and we saw a showing of what he can do on the mound. So I'm excited for him and what he can do going forward."
Canning, who threw 113 1/3 combined innings in his first year of professional baseball last year, has already thrown 106 1/3 combined innings between the Majors and Triple-A Salt Lake this season. The Angels will be mindful of his workload, but he’s not expected to be shut down at any point this year.
“Being a big league player, especially in your first year, it’s a dynamic experience, because you’re constantly learning, adapting, changing, making adjustments,” Ausmus said. “There’s gonna be ups and downs, and he’s experienced both.”
Canning said the key is not overthinking things on the mound and simply being aggressive with his pitches, instead of trying to be too fine with his location.
“You are always kind of evolving, trying to figure out a routine,” Canning said. “But ultimately it comes down to being myself, which I felt like I did really well when I first got up here. Not overthinking things, pretty much.”