With pressure on, Tropeano twirls gem
Young Angels righty thrills home crowd in spot start
ANAHEIM -- Nick Tropeano, starting only because Matt Shoemaker's pitching arm remains stiff, picked a good time for the best start of his young Major League career.
In the thick of a playoff race, and in front of an energized home crowd at Angel Stadium, the 25-year-old right-hander held the A's to one run in 6 2/3 innings, striking out 11, walking one and leading the Angels to an 8-1 victory Tuesday night, their seventh in a row.
Tropeano left to a standing ovation.
"I was pumped," he said, after the Angels moved a half-game up on the Astros for the second American League Wild Card spot and remained two games behind the Rangers for first place in the AL West. "I was ready to get the ball, and I was going to do everything I can to give my team an opportunity to win."
Tropeano did it with the most strikeouts he's recorded in professional baseball, tying Garrett Richards for a season high in punchouts by an Angels starter this season. Backed by a two-run lead after the first inning and a six-run lead after the fourth, Tropeano gave up only a Max Muncy solo home run and two other hits, striking out eight of the first 12 batters he faced.
"Everything clicked," said Tropeano, who has a 3.82 ERA in 37 2/3 innings.
"If you watched us the first couple of times through the order off him, we didn't even really put good swings together," A's catcher Stephen Vogt added. "Any time you're watching a pitcher get bad swings like that, you figure he must be pretty nasty. And when you fool Major League hitters like that, your stuff is pretty good."
Tropeano was acquired alongside catcher Carlos Perez in the deal that sent homegrown catcher Hank Conger to the Astros in November. Tropeano -- a long shot to crack the Major League rotation out of Spring Training -- was up and down for his first couple of months in the Pacific Coast League, missed about five weeks with tendinitis in his shoulder, then "came back and put it together," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said.
Tropeano has given up six earned runs runs in 21 1/3 innings with the Angels in September.
With Shoemaker out and Jered Weaver nursing stiffness in his right shoulder, Tropeano could pitch some important innings if the Angels reach the postseason.
"I'm going to do anything I can to help the team win," said Tropeano, currently lined up to start the regular-season finale in Arlington. "If that's out of the bullpen, if that's in the rotation -- whatever it takes. We're in a playoff race. Every game counts, and we're just taking it a game at a time."