Shoemaker gaining velocity as timing improves
ANAHEIM -- The timing of Matt Shoemaker's delivery was back in sync on Friday night, his work in the extra two days he had before his start paying off. The Angels' still-middling offense just couldn't back him up.
The Angels managed just a run -- on Mike Trout's first-inning homer -- against Taijuan Walker and the Mariners, dropping their series opener at Angel Stadium, 3-1. Shoemaker took the loss, even though his six-plus innings of two-run baseball were a substantial improvement over his previous start, when the right-hander lasted just four innings against the A's, allowing five runs, eight hits and two home runs.
"Got my timing back, which was really good, a really positive outlook from today," Shoemaker said. "Really just getting my upper half and lower half working better together. When I do that, I execute my pitches better, and I felt like we did that tonight."
Shoemaker's velocity had averaged 89.5 mph in 2015. In the first inning Friday, he struck out Austin Jackson on 94-mph heat. Shoemaker sat around 92-93 mph for much of his outing, and by the end of his night he was still mainly 90-91.
"It was much better," catcher Chris Iannetta said. "You saw a jump in [velocity] -- that's the most obvious thing. But as a catcher, you see every pitch was a little bit sharper."
Shoemaker said fixing his timing can help with velocity; he also said the jump is a product of getting stronger as the season goes on. In mid-April, he talked about how he comes into each season purposely underweight from his strict offseason diet, then gains weight quickly. The velocity comes with the weight gain.
Shoemaker also said getting himself in sync makes it easier for him to keep the ball down. On Friday, he generated 14 ground-ball outs (including two double plays) -- he got only two outs through the air and two strikeouts.
"Timing kind of helps, I guess you could say, the crispness of the pitches -- better release points," Shoemaker said.
The ground balls are a good sign. Home runs have been Shoemaker's biggest weakness in 2015, a result of his being unable to consistently locate his fastball. He had allowed 15 entering Friday, but he didn't allow any to the Mariners -- who have Nelson Cruz and his 19 homers anchoring their lineup.
"Shoe started off with great velocity, really good command -- I thought no doubt the fastball was in good zones early," manager Mike Scioscia said. "We'll take that outing from Shoe."
It went to waste, though, as the Angels -- who have scored just 13 runs in their last six games -- kept coming up empty against Walker.
"I thought we had good at-bats against him, and we just -- 0-for-4 with guys in scoring position," Scioscia said. "So we couldn't get that hit."