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Nolasco stifles Nats before exiting with cramps

MLB.com

WASHINGTON -- Wednesday seemed like it was going to be another typical outing for Ricky Nolasco.

Nolasco entered his start against the Nationals having allowed a combined 10 runs over nine innings in his past two appearances and a league-high 30 home runs over the season. In the first inning, the right-hander gave up a two-home run to Ryan Zimmerman.

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WASHINGTON -- Wednesday seemed like it was going to be another typical outing for Ricky Nolasco.

Nolasco entered his start against the Nationals having allowed a combined 10 runs over nine innings in his past two appearances and a league-high 30 home runs over the season. In the first inning, the right-hander gave up a two-home run to Ryan Zimmerman.

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But Nolasco settled in from there, not allowing another run, and the Angels rallied for a 3-2 win. Before exiting due to cramps in both calves with two outs in the sixth inning, Nolasco permitted five hits while recording five strikeouts and three walks, taking a step toward resurrecting his season.

"Ricky battled," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "After the home run in the first from Zimmerman, where he just missed a spot with the fastball. It was hot out there ... but he gutted it out and gave us a chance."

Video: LAA@WSH: Nolasco leaves game with injury in the 6th

Nolasco has given up five or more runs in nine of his 25 starts. As the Angels have been on their hottest stretch of the season -- putting them a half-game up on the Royals for the second American League Wild Card spot -- Nolasco has played his worst baseball.

Entering Wednesday, the Angels had lost five of Nolasco's last seven starts. During that span, Nolasco was 1-3 with a 7.60 ERA. The 34-year-old especially struggled vs. right-handers, who batted .420 and slugged .780 off him.

But Nolasco mixed his pitches well after the first inning against one of the most dangerous lineups in baseball. After the Nationals loaded the bases in the fourth inning with two outs, Nolasco struck out Wilmer Difo, who's on an 11-game hitting streak, to end the frame. Kole Calhoun knocked a two-run homer in the sixth to put the Angels on top.

Video: LAA@WSH: Nolasco fans Difo to escape trouble

"That whole inning there, I wasn't trying to give in," Nolasco said. "I walked a couple guys, but those are kind of situational walks. Threw some good curveballs there to [Difo] there to end that inning and then just kind of tried to slow the game down."

In Nolasco's past two starts, opponents took advantage when his pitch counts got high. But Nolasco left the fourth inning on 88 pitches and he still almost finished the sixth.

On his 112th pitch, Nolasco short-armed his delivery and cringed as he worked a 2-2 count vs. Jose Lobaton. Scioscia and the team's trainer pulled Nolasco with pain he doesn't expect to linger.

"I wanted to finish that guy there, but I understand the situation we're in," Nolasco said. "We can't take any risks. It worked out, and we won. That's all that matters."

Nolasco's impressive outing comes at a promising time for the Angels' rotation, which has been troubled by injuries. Tyler Skaggs returned from a right oblique muscle strain on Aug. 5 and Andrew Heaney is making his first Major League start Friday since Tommy John surgery in 2016. Parker Bridwell, meanwhile, is playing his best baseball of the year, allowing a combined two runs over 13 innings in his previous two starts.

Nolasco strengthened his case to maintain his rotation spot when Alex Meyer or Garrett Richards return from their injuries, but the 12-year veteran should contribute one way or another to the team's postseason push.

"Every five days I'm going to go out there and give the team everything I have," Nolasco said. "That's what happened today. We scored just enough. Kole with a huge, big hit there to put us up. Every win right now is important. It takes everybody, 25 guys right now to do what we got to do."

Kyle Melnick is a reporter for MLB.com based in Washington who covered the Angels on Wednesday.

Los Angeles Angels, Ricky Nolasco