Canning spins gem to lead Halos to sweep

June 10th, 2021

ANAHEIM -- Despite hitting a speed bump in his last outing, Angels starter has begun to find some consistency on the mound and registered what manager Joe Maddon called the right-hander's best outing of the season on Wednesday against the Royals.

Canning went a season-high 6 2/3 innings, allowing one run on five hits and two walks, with seven strikeouts, to help lead the Angels to a 6-1 win and a three-game sweep at Angel Stadium. Over his last seven starts dating back to May 1, Canning has a 3.86 ERA with 39 strikeouts, 17 walks and five homers allowed in 35 innings.

Canning bounced back after allowing four runs over 3 1/3 innings in his last outing on Thursday against the Mariners. Canning still needs to work on getting deeper into games -- he also went just two innings and allowed four runs to the Twins on May 20 -- but his outing against Kansas City was a step in the right direction.

"I liked it a lot,” Maddon said. “Of course, he had a good game, but I liked how he pitched. He had a rugged start and he righted himself. He went back out and really fulfilled the game plan. He was very unpredictable."

Canning was a bit shaky in the first, allowing a leadoff single to Whit Merrifield and walking Andrew Benintendi with one out. He then threw an errant pickoff throw to second base, allowing both baserunners to advance. Canning, though, escaped the jam despite walking Jorge Soler to load the bases with two outs, getting Hunter Dozier to ground out to shortstop. It was another good sign for Canning, who entered with a 10.00 ERA in the first inning this year.

"That first inning is always a tough inning,” Canning said. “You go out there and try to get a feel for what you have. Just kind of settle into the surroundings. I felt like I actually pitched today, which was more fun. I was more into the flow of the game and understanding what they've done in the past, and what they're trying to do."

He went on to retire seven in a row after the walk to Soler, but he ran into trouble in the fourth, when he gave up a leadoff single to Salvador Perez and a double to Soler. Canning, however, minimized the damage, only allowing one run to score on an infield single from Kelvin Gutierrez. He said a change in his mental approach helped him get out of that inning.

"The one inning where I gave up the run, that's usually where I would start trying to miss bats more as opposed to staying on the attack,” Canning said. “If I give up a run or two, who cares, it's about getting quick outs and going deeper into the game."

And again, Canning got into a rhythm, retiring 10 in a row after Gutierrez’s single. The righty was lifted with two outs in the seventh after giving up a single to Nicky Lopez on his 89th pitch. Reliever Mike Mayers came in and got Merrifield to ground out to end the inning.

Of his 89 pitches, Canning recorded an impressive 18 swings and misses and got it done with a variety of his pitches, with his slider particularly sharp. He got seven whiffs with the slider, four with both the fastball and curveball and three with the changeup. Canning threw more curves than usual and didn’t rely on his changeup as much as he had in the past in an attempt to change speeds more going forward.

“He really incorporated the curveball today,” Maddon said. “I love the curveball. I think it's a really good pitch and gives the hitter a little bit of a difference in velocity to be concerned with. He really got into a nice tempo right until the very end."

Canning’s strong outing also helped the Angels to their 11th win in their last 16 games and moved them to two games under .500 for the first time since May 10. Though Mike Trout has been sidelined with a right calf strain during the strong run, the rotation is showing signs of rounding into form.

"You can see it,” Maddon said. “The starting pitching is going deeper and the bullpen has been better because of that, because they don't have as many outs to cover. And our outfield defense has improved in my mind's eye. And I think getting [catcher Max] Stassi back was really important to our pitchers. There are a lot of little subplots that are coming together that are making this a pretty good moment right now."