While Oakland Athletics starting pitcher Sonny Gray was punching out Los Angeles Angels batters deep into Thursday’s ball game, their starter C.J. Wilson was icing his shoulder in the dugout. Manager Mike Scioscia watched Gray string together a quality start against his club, which must be discouraging considering only two games separate his squad and the opposition from first place in the AL West. The loss of his ace, Garrett Richards, surely looms large over the Angels’ postseason plans.
In Gray, Jon Lester, Jeff Samardzija and Scott Kazmir, the A’s have a rotation that can be relied upon on a nightly basis. Even Jason Hammel, their fifth starter, provides them with quality outings on a regular basis. With the advent of Richards losing the remainder of his 2014 season to a knee injury, Scioscia realizes his club faces an uphill battle in September to preserve their division lead.
Wilson was okay against the A’s, but he failed to last six innings and left the game after giving up back-to-back walks. He hasn’t completed seven innings of work for his team since June 19, and he looks poised to finish the regular season with his ERA the highest it has ever been (now 4.46) since becoming a full-time MLB starter back in 2010.
Former ace Jered Weaver has seen his ERA go up a full 0.42 points from this same time last season. He hasn’t completed seven innings of work in five August outings.
Now that Richards is absent, the Angels find themselves with the thinnest rotation in the division amongst the three known contenders. Scioscia understands he will have to lean more on his bullpen in the coming weeks. Hector Santiago has once given him seven innings in a game this season. Matt Shoemaker is a reliever turned starter in 2014. Tyler Skaggs is joined by Richards on the 60-day DL after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Right now, the Angels don’t even have a full five-man rotation listed on their depth chart. That’s scary stuff for Halos fans when you consider the wealth of arms the Athletics and Seattle Mariners currently possess.
Gray delivered his fourth quality start in the month of August. He worked seven-plus innings for the seventh time in his last 11 starts. A’s manager Bob Melvin has the luxury of confidence with any starter he sends out on a given night. Mike Scioscia does not.
Gray’s outing Thursday night reminded Scioscia of his current plight, highlighting even more the consequential loss of Richards as his team enters the stretch run of vying for a division championship. To claim a reliable starter off waivers would mean in most instances the Angels have to go over the luxury tax limit by taking on extra salary, thus facing penalties in 2015.
While the Angels still sport a very potent lineup and the best baseball player on the planet in Mike Trout, they will struggle to find pitchers capable of eating quality innings for them in the final month of the regular season. Scioscia could really use a guy like Gray on his pitching staff right about now — or Lester, or Samardzija…
I think Athletics fans get the point, much to the chagrin of Angels supporters, of course.