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One major problem that the Angels had in 2018 is that the starters couldn’t go deep, which in turn contributed to the bullpen turning to toast in September of last season. 2019 will be no exception if the Angels starters continue their trend of going under five innings.

How bad is it? In 15 games, Halos starting pitchers have pitched five innings or more in only five games. To top it off, no starter reached five innings the last four starts.

  • On April 9 against the Brewers, Matt Harvey had his second straight subpar outing by going 4.1 innings, giving up seven hits, six earned runs, walking two, and striking out two. The Angels bullpen bailed him out by only giving up two runs thereafter keeping the Angels in the game. The Angels went on to win 11-8.
  • On April 10 at home against the Milwaukee Brewers, Felix Peña went 4 innings, gave up three hits, one unearned run, walked two, and struck out two. The bullpen once again bailed out another Halos starter by going 5 innings and only giving up one run in a 4-2 win.
  • On April 12 against the Cubs, Tyler Skaggs went 4 innings, gave up seven hits, four earned runs, walked no one, and had seven strikeouts. However, he served up three home runs in the process and Skaggs mysteriously didn’t think his start was that bad. “The first inning they jumped on me early,” Skaggs said. “I made some really bad pitches. They hit my pitches I didn’t execute well. Other than that, I thought it was a strangely pretty solid game. I thought I threw the ball pretty well. Just not the outcome I wanted.” Giving up three runs in the first inning did him in with the Cubs ending up winning 5-1.
  • On April 13 against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field, Chris Stratton went 4.2 innings, gave up five hits, two earned runs, walked four, and struck out five.  The Angels came away with the win 6-5. Stratton was signed by the Angels on March 25, three days before the season started, knocking Jaime Barria out of the starting rotation. He has failed to prove to fans that he’s a better fit than Barria so far.

Manager Brad Ausmus knows that the Angels cannot continue to rely on their bullpen to clean up the starters’ messes: “We’ve gone to our ’pen quite a bit so far in a week and a half we’ve been here. We can’t, quite frankly, continue to use the guys at the pace we’re using them. We’re aware of it. We’ve also had a lot of close games. There will be spells when you don’t have so many close games. That’s the ebb and flow of the season.”

There is one bright spot, however, and that glimmer of hope is in the form of Trevor Cahill. He has had three starts and has gone six innings in all of those starts. He did give up four earned runs in his Opening Day debut with the Angels, but his last two starts were solid. On April 2 against the Seattle Mariners on the road, he gave up three hits, one earned run, didn’t walk a batter, and struck out five. On April 8, he had another quality start against the Brewers at home. He gave up five hits, two earned runs, walked one while striking out eight batters. He’s a grinder and he will try to get the Angels to two games over .500 for the first time this season as they begin a three-game series in Arlington against the Texas Rangers.

So what needs to happen with the Angels starting rotation so that the bullpen doesn’t get gassed?

  1. Matt Harvey needs to get better in a hurry. He has given up 14 earned runs in the past 8.1 innings. Are his Dark Knight days over once and for all? It’s still early, but the Halos need to see results.
  2. Tyler Skaggs needs to expect more from himself since he is considered the ace. He cannot be satisfied with going less than six innings and giving up long balls.
  3. Andrew Heaney needs to get healthy. Enough said.
  4. Jaime Barria needs to get his rotation spot back. He earned it last season by going 10-9 with a 3.41 ERA in 129.1 innings. He recently went 2.2 innings of relief on April 11 against the Brewers and gave up one run. Despite getting the win in his season debut, he was sent down to AAA to bring up a fresh bullpen arm (Jake Jewell).
  5. Chris Stratton needs confidence in his nasty curveball. When he can’t get his curveballs to turn over, he loses control and starts walking a lot of batters.
  6. Put Felix Peña in the bullpen. Keep him as a long reliever and use him as an emergency starter if Matt Harvey can’t get it going.

Featured Image: Tyler Skaggs/ Sporting News
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